It is mid-October, fall weather has arrived and Halloween costumes are in full force, pumpkin patches and corn mazes are booming, and I am pretty excited. I was born just a few days before Halloween, so some of the excitement may be attributed to that, but October really gets the holiday party started! Soon enough we will be wrapping boxes, digging out tangled lights and snuggling up by the stockings hung by the fireplace. From October to January, weekends are packed full of all the fun activities celebrating the best part of the year.
I love the holidays. I bought our Halloween costumes in June and The Polar Express train ride tickets in July. Christmas presents get bought as early at February. I live for the holidays.
As a child, the holidays were always magical. As an adult, you expect the magic to carry over because it is supposed to be magical, but a couple years ago I realized a hard truth: the magic of the holidays depends on me. My husband had to work Thanksgiving so we didn’t join family with the typical buffet, stories, and laughs. It was just another day. It came and went without any magic. I didn’t create any magic and it was weird.
As a child, my dad made Halloween the best night of the year (aside from Christmas Eve — don’t be crazy). He’d dress up along with my sisters and me, and he had a mental map of all the houses at which we were going to stop. Growing up in a very small, rural town, we were forced to drive house to house. But, y’all, those farmhouses give out legit candies (I’m talking full size candy bars!) and one can’t forget about the homemade popcorn balls made by a friend’s grandmother, which were the best. Sure, we got loads and loads of candy that I rationed until Easter, but the most spectacular memories of Halloween, what I remember the most, are the smile across my dad’s face, the excitement he had while getting dressed, and the childlike sound of his voice as we loaded up the car with the sun still shining (we had a strict start time in order to get to all the houses before the night was done). This lasted through high school because I wouldn’t stop; I even went my freshman year of college in a handmade dinosaur costume that was pretty amazing (my dad didn’t join this night as I was three hours away, but he definitely heard about it).
I feel silly each year, but at the end of the night, the child inside me smiles with excitement. I love sharing in these memories with my kids and showing them that it is perfectly okay for adults to have fun too.
I admit that I don’t love Thanksgiving. I don’t particularly love the feeling of stuffing your face with the typical Thanksgiving meal. You know, ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, and turkey. Meh. But, what I do love? I love being at my aunt’s house with the Black Friday ads scattered across her kitchen table. I love making the list of stores to hit, the list of what you want from each store and what time the store opens. I miss the days of early morning Black Friday sales when you woke up at 3am to wait in a line in 20F degree weather to save a few dollars. The adrenaline rush pushed you through that sleepy haze. I just loved shopping through sunrise with my mom, dad, aunt and sisters one day of the year.
The day you have waited for ALL. YEAR. LONG.: Christmas! As a child, we put up our freshly cut tree the weekend after Thanksgiving. We’d go to a lot with tons of Christmas trees that all looked the same, but each year my mom always found THE ONE. Dad had to cut the bottom and then struggled to get it through the front door. We’d spend the day watching Christmas movies while decorating the tree and the house. Oh, the excitement! (I’m giddy just writing about it!) My mom always baked delicious cookies and we went to Christmas Eve mass. Well, except the couple years where my anxiety for the holiday created a day full of vomiting — I told you I was legit about the holidays.
I’m married to a guy who I don’t think would think to put up a tree (I love him anyway and the “if I die” scenario has been drilled into his head, so it’s fine), so I know the magic depends on me and I am totally up for the challenge. Between the Polar Express train ride, the Christmas lights at Dollywood and Shadrack’s Christmas Wonderland at the Smokies stadium, and all the other events and activities celebrating the season, it is easy to pack December full of magic. Every Christmas Eve, right before bed, we drive around looking at local Christmas lights — it’s something I look forward to every year. I also look forward to our kiddos waking up early and running into the living room to see if Santa has come.
Long story long, the magic of the holiday rests on me.
I was raised in a house chock-full of holiday magic and I want my girls to experience the magic. The magic isn’t found in a box under the tree. The magic is dressing up in silly costumes, spending time together, and decorating the house with Christmas music playing and eating yummy cookies. The magic is seeing your kid’s eyes light up at the number of Christmas lights. The magic is watching Christmas movies on repeat snuggled on the couch. The magic is walking into your aunt’s house overwhelmed with loud family members and delicious food.