Look, I get it. Christmas isn’t for everyone.
We’re stressed, we’re cranky, we’re broke — and we’re driving like maniacs.
Who in their right mind would want to stand in line at uncomfortably crowded department stores, then hand over entire paychecks to gifts for people you only see once a year? Why spend your only free time, slaving in a hot kitchen, churning out dozens of meticulously decorated sugar cookies and loaves of fruitcake that will likely be used as a doorstop?
Are we crazy?
Well, yes, we are.
See, I love Christmas. I always have. And it has nothing to do with opening presents on Christmas Day, either.
In fact, my favorite day is today, Christmas Eve. The anticipation of Christmas is still lurking behind midnight, and you can just feel the feverish energy. (Or is that panic…?) The tree is decked, the gifts are wrapped, the stockings are hung on fireplaces made out of cardboard — hey, this is Hawai‘i! — and all the baking and cleaning and Christmas card-writing are finally done.
It’s the only day, really, when you can sit back, take a deep breath, and inhale it all in.
So what, exactly, is it about Christmas that makes me so cheerful, despite the awful traffic, the dwindling checking account, and the dozens of Aleve I’ve popped in the past week and a half?
I’ll tell you.
5. Gives me a reason to bake: For a long time, I’ve lived alone — with no one to bake for. So I love any excuse to convert my home kitchen into a commercial facility, pumping out dozens of cookies and bars and cakes for friends, parties, neighbors, ‘opala workers. There’s something so satisfying when you bake, watching the slew of ingredients you’ve combined culminate into something (hopefully) delicious. And it’s equally gratifying to hand these baked goods to people who are really, really happy to receive them. You can’t beat it!
4. Yes, I do love Christmas music: I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I am a self-professed lover of Christmas music. All of it. Pop versions, classic renditions, horrific duets — I will listen and love. Seriously. Put on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas” or Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” and I’m all good. But here’s the catch: I can only — ONLY — listen to Christmas music during the holidays, starting in December, no earlier. It doesn’t make sense otherwise.
3. Buying gifts for kids: I’ll admit, shopping for gifts can be stressful, especially when you’re trying to find that perfect present (the one they won’t return or regift). But I love buying gifts for kids. I feel like no matter what you get them — aside from boring clothes and encyclopedia collections — they’re always thrilled to get something, anything, even gift cards. (I got my friend’s pre-teen son a gift card once and he loved it. It was like a fake credit card or something.) For the past few years, I’ve bought the kids on my list books. Yeah, I know, that could be the least exciting present under the tree for them, but I feel like I’m 1) supporting an industry that I never want to see go away, 2) promoting a lifelong love of reading, and 3) reliving my own youth through these books. This year, I got some of my favorites — like the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and “Calvin & Hobbes” collections. Great reads. I even bought a book for myself! Win-win!
2. Seeing familiar faces all month long: No matter how busy we all get — with careers or kids or three needy dogs — everyone seems to carve out time to get together for the holidays. I mean, there are friends I never see or even talk to all year long — yet, here we are, having drinks with dinner or swapping cookies over afternoon tea. It really makes all the sitting-in-traffic-on-a-weekday-WTF and feeling-sick-because-we-ate-way-too-much-again so worth it.
1. It’s that old Christmas spirit: Maybe it’s cliche — although so is Christmas, I suppose — but there’s just something magical in the air during the holiday. It’s why we open doors for others and drop dollar bills into red kettles hanging outside of grocery stores. It’s why we leave lilikoi fruit on the sidewalk for people to take for free — and include plastic bags, too (top photo). We donate to causes, we buy responsible gifts that don’t hurt our environment, we look for a larger meaning to life, we hope for the best in each other and the world, we hold hands, we sing together, we pray together, we climb mountains to watch the sunrise and paddle out in the surf for sunset. Christmas just inspires us to live, to love, to hope. I just wish this feeling would last past Dec. 25.
Happy Holidays, everyone!