Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday, December 09, 2010 - No comments

Merriment on Hold

There is a strict rule in our house about when the commencement of the celebration of Christmas is officially permitted. My roommate’s birthday is December 1st, and there shall be no listening to carols, decorating of trees or making of gingerbread men until the 2nd. Normally I am chomping at the bit, ready to unleash a torrent of merriment as soon as it’s legally allowed. But this year, December 2nd has come and gone, and I’m finding myself screaming, “Stop the calendar! I’m not ready!”

It’s not even so much a thing of having been too overwhelmingly busy to think about writing Christmas cards (though that is definitely the case) or even the fact that Christmas isn’t celebrated here, and the halls of the malls are far from decked. I think it’s more that I didn’t feel like I got to savour autumn long enough, and I’m just plain not ready for winter. The calendar may not be on my side, but the weather sure is. It’s still, for the most part, t-shirt friendly during the day, and the leaves are still fluttering from the trees in cascades of red and yellow. The last few months have been so incredibly packed with work and activity, and silly sentimental me feels like I need to slow down and enjoy just a little more pumpkin soup and leaf crunching before I’m ready to switch into wassail sipping and snowflake snipping.

A few weeks ago, some friends asked me to do a photo shoot for their family Christmas cards. They went with the theme of “Merry Mediterranean Christmas” and we built ourselves an adorable little “sandman” on the beach, complete with a scarf and a toque, a carrot nose, and seashells for eyes. Bundled up in their Christmas sweaters, they got quite the amused glances from the bikini-clad passers by who stopped to watch them posing for pictures. Our little sandman was proof that what Christmas “feels like” is a result of where we grew up. For me, having lived much of my life in Canada, the classic Christmas scene is a cozy house with candles in the windows, a wreath on the door, lights on the roof and a snowman in the yard. But if I’d grown up in, say, Australia, it might look more like a row of picnic blankets on the beach. And now, living in Turkey, it’s up to us to merge the two and make Christmas happen for ourselves, cuz it certainly isn’t happening around us. And while last year, by this time, I had a tree up in my room and was decorating cookies and playing elf and making presents, this year my heart just feels like it got stuck in November.

I have this calendar that I keep as sort of a scrapbook, and every day I write something or stick a little memento in that day’s square. And last night, as I attempted to find my floor under the piles of (clean) laundry and various project stacks, I realized that I’d been so busy, I hadn’t even switched my calendar over December yet, and it was already the 8th. It was high time to flip that page and decorate the top part with something Christmasy....and yet something inside me resisted. It was like by admitting it was December, I was being disloyal to fall. And not only that, it meant I needed to get out the decorations and put on the carols and enjoy as much of “Christmas” as I could, cuz like it or not, it was coming. And I know that once I get into the Christmas spirit, I’ll want to stay in it for a good while, and I can’t very well keep the house full of holly and snowflakes and “O Come All Ye Faithful” through the end of January, cuz I might drive certain other people in the house crazy.

So, in the end, I reluctantly put on the year’s first Christmas music and got out my Christmas scrapbook paper and I sipped my peppermint hot chocolate and made myself a happy December calendar page. And with that, coupled with the bag of Christmas blend I’d picked up at Starbucks in the morning, I declared the beginning of the Christmas season in my heart. On the weekend, I’ll put on Bing Crosby and break out the decorations and kick the baking into high gear. But in the meantime, I think I might go collect just a few more autumn leaves.....