I hated Christmas music from November 2004 to November 2005. Nothing about it made me chipper and bright. I hated Christmas shopping, which I normally loved. I wasn’t even keen on the tree in 2004. I just wanted it over. My mom’s breast cancer diagnosis hit my family just before Thanksgiving in 2004, and no amount of false department store spirit could lift mine. I normally liked Christmas. I started shopping after Labor Day and I could be counted on for caroling and decorating just after Thanksgiving.
I was always the first one to send Christmas cards. I should have purchased stock in Hallmark due to the sheer volume that I needed. I had a Santa hat that went everywhere with me. One year, I made stockings for everyone I worked with and I always planned some sort of holiday celebration.
In 2004, it wasn’t the same. I didn’t have the desire to plan, play, and fake my way through the holiday season. Frankly, it was exhausting.
I hated Christmas music and with surprising force, I blocked out the sounds. I did not watch any Christmas movies, including my favorites. I love It’s a Wonderful Life, but even my beloved Jimmy Stewart was too much. I didn’t wear my Santa hat. I don’t remember what my family did that year. I think my parents and I stayed home and wathed movies and ate. (Not that spending time that way isn’t a perfect holiday either way.)
When my mom was issued a clean bill of health, and came home on New Year’s Eve 2004, 2005 came in with a renewed hope. And although I was still weary regarding Christmas music, I was mostly bad to my “old” self that year. Christmas movies didn’t bother me, for the most part. I enjoyed shopping again and I made Hallmark’s sales quota singlehandedly. My mom has had a clean bill of health for thirteen years, so the pure detest for all things Christmas only lasted for one season.
As an adult, Christmas is a big deal at my house. I love having family packed into our small (ish) ranch and the togetherness that the season brings. Every square inch of my home is decorated and I have never failed to have our Christmas tree up either on Thanksgiving or the day after. This year, my husband indulged my adoration of trains and bought me a train to circle our tree. He also started getting me pieces to a Christmas village, and every year, I find a new one from him. I love the way that he takes his time selecting the piece and the energy he spends studying each one to make sure it is just right. (Our village may or may not be still on display in the living room window. Yes, I know it’s April. Yes, I know it was seventy degrees last week. I’ll get to it.)
However, as much as I love Christmas, and I will fully admit that I do love it, it’s not my favorite holiday. And even before 2004, that wasn’t the case.
Very few people, including most of my family and friends, do not know my truth. And a few of those people are probably scratching their heads right now, or they are in complete denial. Better yet, and a much more fitting response, they are questioning how well they actually know me? If one finds himself, or perhaps herself, in that position, there is one question to ask: what do I wear, all year round, no matter the temperature? If the immediate answer is “flip flops”, it is correct. I wear them all year, even when I can’t parade around outdoors, they become home attire. It is not uncommon to see me in fluffy fleece pants, a fluffy fleece snuggly robe, blankets topped on me, and flip flopped feet peeking out and asking, “when’s spring?”
What do I thrive on? Sunshine. Being outside. The color of grass and the look of the world in bloom.
The truth is, Memorial Day has always been my favorite holiday. Always.
As a youngster in elementary school, it meant that the school year was almost over. In high school, it still meant that the school year was almost over. In college, it meant that the semester had already been over for about a month. As an adult, it ushers in open windows, gardening, reading on the porch, early mornings and late nights, and things coming alive again once more.
Spring might start in March, but for me, my new growth and beginnings start in May.
I had friends that resented the parade we did as members of the high school marching band. And it’s true that I might have resented being there because of band, I didn’t resent the day. I loved it.
Memorial Day combines two of my favorite things. Memories and spring. I take pictures of everything and am careful to make memories. I don’t want to forget anything or be left out of anything, so if I document it, I was there. And I can always go back. As a natural observer of things, this has always been poignant for me.
I haven’t experienced a lot of loss. But others have And Memorial Day signifies a day that we remember the loved ones of our friends and neighbors that went to serve the United States and didn’t return. Do you really think Christmas is an easy holiday for those people?
It wasn’t easy for me and I had it rough for one year. I can’t imagine what Christmas feels like to those whose loved ones are permanently missing.
Memorial Day represents starting over and looking forward, at least for me. It’s a day in the sun (we hope) for those that have lost someone dear. And it was always a year to plant and be outside. To watch something new grow and thrive simply because I said, “yeah, that pansy looks good there”. It’s about life and tending to it.
That’s not to say that Christmas isn’t. It certainly is. But there is something about warmth inside and out, both mentally and physically, that doubles Memorial Day.
I find it interesting that green is such an important color for both holidays. We see green and red everywhere around Christmas and nature pops up with her annual greens for Memorial Day. Christmas green is a bit darker and it has the same pine smell associated with it. Grass green always carries with it the promise of new hope and remembrance. The time of year acts like a hug and it gives us permission to remember.
And when we do remember, the traces of our memories won’t stick to our faces like they would during many Decembers in Michigan. In May, the traces of our memories can be easily managed with by carefully sliding a hand, or simply tipping your face into the sun. We can remember and feel the warmth of a new day and know that it really is okay. There’s no forced merriment from overzealous store clerks, catchy songs on repeat, or artificial green to remind us of the way we “should” feel because of that damnable pine scent.
One might argue that New Year’s Day offers us the same sense of renewal, but from where I come from, you can’t wear flip flops in the snow.
P.S.-Christmas is my second favorite holiday and I am not a huge fan of fake pine scent. It makes me think of wood cleaner. How ironic.