Getting rid of your inner Grinch 

click to enlarge PHOTO BY ANNIE SPRATT/UNSPLASH
  • Photo by Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Christmas was always a big deal in my family.

Well, more specifically, to my mom. Every year, when the calendar flips to December, the storage bins get pulled out of the basement and our home begins its annual transformation into the North Pole. It normally takes a few days before the transformation is complete.

She starts in the foyer, where boxes are stacked and covered in glittering white-cotton batting to create the base for her North Pole village. The whimsical miniature buildings include a reindeer flight-training school, a gumdrop factory, a hot-chocolate tower, a post office, and, of course, Santa's workshop, among others. (We stopped buying new ones for her years ago, after she ran out of room.)

One tree goes in the upstairs living room, while another is put up in the basement. Garland covers banisters and mantles; poinsettias pop up in corners, and regular coffee mugs are swapped out for red ones with snowflakes. There's a lit-up reindeer grazing on the front lawn.

My mom also collects Nutcrackers. The moment you step inside the door, you're greeted by one that reaches to my elbow. Continue on and you'll find most solid surfaces are home to a Nutcracker or four. (You've always got to be careful stumbling down my parents' stairs around the holiday—the few wooden soldiers that don't fit on a shelf typically tend to find themselves guarding the bottom few steps.)

I could continue, but this column has a word limit.

It sounds over the top, but it always turns out beautifully. And as much as we tease my mom about her Christmas obsession, it's a large part of what always made the holidays my most favourite time of year.

But then I moved across the country and all of a sudden, December looked very different.

The twinkling lights in the (real-life) village might paint a pretty picture, but the holidays are some of the busiest, most stressful times in Whistler.

Now, the only holiday decoration in my tiny apartment is an equally tiny Christmas tree that—you guessed it—my mom mailed out the first year I moved to Whistler.

She spends the majority of December evenings making caramel popcorn to gift to friends while Michael Bublé's Christmas album plays in the background. I, on the other hand, barely have time to finish my work ahead of looming deadlines, let alone enough time to even consider making Christmas treats.

When Christmas Eve rolls around, spending it with other Whistler orphans drinking gin and sodas at Brandy's—and gawking when Santa strolls in, red suit and all, for the last stop on his pub crawl—might be fun, but it's not nearly as heartwarming as spending it in front of a fireplace, watching Christmas movies with your family and friends.

Even holiday entertainment isn't what it used to be. I won't begin to compare Netflix's truly horrific list of original Christmas movies (that are for some reason also wedding-themed?) to Will Ferrell's 2003 masterpiece, Elf.

Honestly, I thought to myself, it's easier to forget that it's even Christmas. So I kept listening to my favourite podcasts and playlists, instead of putting "All I Want for Christmas Is You (Extra Festive)" on repeat. Elf was playing on TV, but I hit the power button on the remote and fired up my computer to keep working. The mini Christmas tree stayed tucked away in my closet.

But then, in a moment of stress-induced self-pity, I had a holiday epiphany. I was being a Grinch. Or a cotton-headed ninny muggins, if you prefer.

Christmas was never special just because December rolled around. The holidays were special because of the effort put in by the friends and family I spent them with—all those decorations didn't just appear out of thin air.  

So, if I want to keep enjoying the holidays, I'll probably have to put in a little effort too.

I might not be able to celebrate every single tradition with my family, but pretending the holidays don't exist won't make them any more fun.

Realizing that, I pulled the tiny Christmas tree out of my closet and placed it on a shelf. Instead of going to see the Nutcracker with my grandmother like we did for years, I accepted a friend's invitation to see the BC Ballet perform in Vancouver. I put on the Christmas Hits playlist on Spotify. I set my PVR to record Home Alone, and finally felt in the holiday spirit.

I highly doubt I'll get around to any holiday baking, but maybe that's what Christmas miracles are for.

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