This past Christmas was the first Christmas that I truly felt devoid of most of the magic I had experienced as a child on the holiday.
You see, I am infatuated with how infatuated I was with Christmas as a child. I had a ritual that I went through – and still do – early every christmas morning. Even now, if anyone or anything obstructs this ritual in any way, I pile the all-mighty wrath of broken Christmas joy upon them.
Here’s what I would do:
First, I would wake up at precisely 4:30 am, tiptoe out of my bedroom, peek downstairs, and a semi-truck of Christmas spirit driven by Santa would immediately bulldoze into me. My vision would become blurry and I would feel instantly faint; I was clearly drunk on joy (either that, or secondhand eggnog from my grandfather). It was like witnessing the birth of Jesus himself. Okay, maybe not; births are actually pretty disgusting. It was more like witnessing the birth of Santa, which I assume involved less bodily fluid and more confetti. I would tiptoe downstairs, not for fear of waking my parents and sister up, but for some fear of somehow disturbing the Christmas miracle that had inexplicably visited our household the night before. My eyes wide and brimming with wonder, I would ever-so-gingerly stroke the objects overflowing from the stockings. If I somehow managed to disturb even the smallest piece of the stockings that I assumed my parents had spent hours arranging, I knew that I would look back on that Christmas as the one that I had callously ruined with my overzealousness.
“I will come for you later,” I would lean in close to my stocking and whisper. “Then, we will be one.”
I would then tiptoe, in the dark, toward the christmas tree, assuming that all around me towered a strange and wonderful garden of toys: bicycles, scooters, new life-sized furbies that could feel emotion and heartbreak, etc. I would reach out slowly – ever so slowly – with one finger (like in ET) for the tree.
I would touch the tree, then immediately scurry at top speed back upstairs to my room, a giant oversized pacman smile plastered on my face.
The first phase was complete.
Second, I would sleep for exactly two more hours. No, “sleep” is a generous term. I would…”wait.” As soon as the clock hit 6:30, I ran out of my room, stumbling over the tangible residue of Christmas wonder I had left in my path earlier that morning. I rushed into my sister’s room, scooped her up, and ran with her half-asleep form to my parents’ bedroom. Here’s the worst thing: I’m the older brother. Barreling headfirst through my parents’ door, I would wake them up by touching their bed, scrunching my face up, and channeling pure Christmas energy into their bodies.
“Let’s do stockings!!” I would pant, breathlessly.
Then my mother would unfailingly reply with the same unforgivable thing every year:
“You get started without us.”
If you were ever a child, you must understand why this was unforgivable. Everybody has their own childhood rules for Christmas that they stick to until they are forced to compromise them with another family’s. Maybe, for you, they involve a ritual sacrifice, or your grandmother getting drunk and yelling racist slurs at your neighbors. These are things that must happen to ensure full Christmas joy. My rules included – but were not limited to – the following:
The Rules of Christmas
1. Everybody must be present and alert when unwrapping or unveiling any form of gift.
2. Gifts must be unwrapped or unveiled in turn, and loudly announced.
3. Stockings will be done before – and only before – any gifts will be unwrapped.
4. There will be a small stuffed animal sticking out of the top of every stocking. (If there is not, I put my own stuffed animals in the stockings before people came downstairs.)
5. One shall not impede upon any of these rules.
You do not know torture like a person from a Round Robin-Unwrapper family thrown in the chaotic fray of a family who opens all their presents at the same time.
We soon did the stockings, and then the presents, exactly as I laid them out in the rules. Everything magical. EVERYTHING CHRISTMAS MAGICAL ALL THE TIME MAGICAL.
There was one more rule, one that only became relevant after I learned about Santa. (For all my younger viewers, don’t worry: Santa is happily up in space right now in his rocket sleigh, fighting enemies of christmas spirit and space grinches.)
To me, this has become the most important rule, and one that I have required my parents to follow, year after year, to this day.
The rule is:
– There must be presents from Santa underneath the tree, placed there the night before Christmas.
You see, I only learned about Santa after my sister told me, who is two years younger than me.
It wasn’t that I didn’t think about it rationally. The way I approached it, my parents would simply never spend so much money on me, so Santa must exist.
Every year, my mother, about 2 days before christmas, casually informs me that she doesn’t “think Santa will come this year,” since I’m “a little too old, anyway.”
I calmly reply, right eye twitching, that “there will be christmas magic this year.”
For me, every Christmas after I learned the truth about Santa has become a desperate and steadily failing attempt to relive my former Christmas glory: to experience, as a complete package, that unadulterated Christmas wonder and mystery. Santa presents are a big part of this. Even knowing full well where they came from, I must have Santa presents.
I realize that these past few Christmases have been progressively emptier of childlike christmas wonder. I also realize that many people will tell me to learn to love Christmas in a different way.
This is not okay with me.
I demand Christmas joy. The same joy I had as a child. And I will not stop clinging to what little magic I have left. I demand Christmas joy, and I deserve Christmas joy. It is mine to take, and I will take more of it every year until I have enough to feel that same wonder I did as a child.
And if I do everything exactly the same and exactly right each year, this will happen. Right. Right?!?!
Everything christmas magical all the time magical.