I was a little late to join in on the Christmas cheer this year.
With images of beautifully decorated houses and overdone Christmas song covers flooding my Whatsapp, I felt like I had received enough of the holiday spirit through the virtual medium of the Internet. With the happenings of this year, my parents and I trailed behind on getting our own decorations in place.
The tradition is we’d get up bright and early on December 1st, set up a big ol’ Christmas star in our front porch and string the decorative lights along the outer steel bars of the windows and the vines facing our pathway. This would be followed by ramping up the interiors with cute Santa and reindeer stickers, setting up the crib in the hall and saving the best for last; the Christmas tree.
Decorating the Christmas tree has always been my favorite part. With Michael Buble’s Christmas album rocking on in the background (overlapped by my parents’ favorite Boney M songs), we’d gather around in the hall and joke around, snack and sing along while jazzing up the tree.
This year is the first in my life where we didn’t respect our family tradition and ended up spending the first of the month like any other. Truth be told, it wasn’t until December 3 rolled on by (commemorated by a close friend’s birthday) did I realize that we were well into the last month of the year.
Where was the obsessive playing of Christmas songs? The excited chatter of presents? The abundance of hot cocoa, not particularly because the climate here requires it, but as an excuse to feel more acquainted with the holiday spirit?
Fifteen days passed with no Christmas cheer. While we got around to hanging the star and some of our lights, it just didn’t carry the same sentiment it always had. The start of the month brought with it new stressors and tasks, keeping the entire household bogged down with work and other activities; further delaying our decorations.
That is until yesterday.
With a great amount of sadness, my mom realized that I had bought zero new dresses or fashionable items of clothing for myself in 2020, courtesy of the work-from-home lifestyle and, of course, my laziness. It is no surprise to my mother that I am not a fashionista but the exact opposite. I would choose my overused tracks and hoodie any day, and this remained my stylistic choice for all of this year.
This, however, would not do for Christmas or New Year’s. When I tiredly declared I’d just throw on an old dress for Christmas mass, my parents both looked at me like I was insane.
“You cannot show up like a hobo to church.”
With much reluctance and after days of delay, we went out shopping for the first (and last) time all year. The day started off with me huffing and puffing (no thanks to the slight fever wreaking havoc on my body) but as it progressed, I captured the happiness and glow on my parent’s faces.
It was the first time in forever; for us to step out of the house together as a family and go on a little outing, just the three of us. Even if it was shopping, an activity I dreaded with all my heart.
I memorized the way my mom’s eyes lit up when I recommended a sari she liked, how my dad would sometimes stare at her like a love-struck teenager even after 33 years of marriage, how they’d both look at me sometimes with expressions of utter hopelessness written on their faces.
I think it was then, half a month later, that the feeling of Christmas set in. Which is why, even when we got back home from shopping, utterly exhausted, I somehow found the energy to go on a lengthy bike trip with dad around town to buy some new decorations and house fixtures.
All the while, I enjoyed the feel of the rarely cool breeze in my hair, rested my chin on my dad’s shoulder and took in the humble life of my hometown, one I’d turned a blind eye to all throughout this year. Dad and I are both great talkers, but it was probably the first time we drove around in silence with minimal conversation, simply enjoying each other’s company with the occasional dad joke and quips.
While carrying the exhaustion that had accumulated through the day, we set up our new Christmas lights in front of our house. I turned on the TV and hit play on the long overdue Michael Buble album, and the three of us worked together on the decorations, swatting and mosquitoes and sometimes at each other when the silliness got out of hand.
This year has been a roller-coaster for most everyone, and as it draws to a close, I’m sure a lot of us carry a certain degree of disappointment on how underwhelming 2020 may have been. Some of us are separated from our loved ones, forced to celebrate through Zoom calls and exchange gifts from a distance.
But I’m sure if we all look hard enough, we’ll find that silver lining.
I went to sleep last night, worn to the bone but with a wide smile on my face – not because we finally got around to honoring our family tradition. I smiled because I was grateful to have a family to honor it with in the first place.
My two wonderful parents: that’s my holiday spirit right there.