Enjoying the labor and toil of Christmas magicWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My favorite thing about Christmas as a child was the ritualism of it all. I fondly remember going over to my Aunt Shirley’s house every Christmas Eve after church and returning home just in time to set out cookies and hit the hay before Santa arrived. My sister, my two brothers and I would trounce down the stairs every Christmas morning to four glorious mounds of presents. After every exciting, frantic gift opening, we would all pack up a few of our favorites, climb into the station wagon and head 200 miles east to my grandparents’ house.
Of course, all of our Christmases may not have always gone exactly that way. Perhaps none of them did.
In reality, my dad worked shift work much of my childhood. Though Dec. 25 was easily the day we were most likely to awaken before the sun rose, some Christmas mornings we were actually forced out of bed even earlier than our dancing sugar plum envisioned minds insisted. We had to drag ourselves up with one eye open to fumble through our present mound so that my dear dad could witness the big event before he had to take off for what must have been the most agonizing work day of the year. Other years, my dear mom had to hold us off long enough for him to walk through the door from a long, cold Christmas Eve toil.
In reality, my sister was seven years older than me and during my prime Christmas years she was suffering from the same lingering, comatose-like sleep state that most teenagers do. Due to our 12-year age span, it is unlikely all four of us awakened with equal amounts of Christmas morning enthusiasm. There was probably much more jumping on the teenager’s bed in an attempt to awaken her for the festivities than I recall.
In reality, when we were all old enough to fend for ourselves, my mom started working part time in retail. Obviously, we didn’t always head right over the river and through the woods to grandma and grandpa’s house Christmas morning. Oil refining and cashiering at the day-after-Christmas sales simply wouldn’t allow for it.
I’m not sure when the Christmas ritual I kept in my mind from year to year finally revealed itself to be the half truth that it was. All I know is that Christmas has not turned out to be the carefree, Norman Rockwell affair for me as an adult that it appeared to be as a child. At some point I realized that Christmas and all of its magic isn’t just there; it’s created.
Thought first occurred to me the Christmas morning that I woke up at 19 years old in an apartment all alone. The mounds of wrapped presents under my tree weren’t for me anymore. Although I was familiar with and practiced in the ways of gift giving, I was still used to the main focus of Christmas being on the getting. I’m not just speaking of presents; I was used to having all of the wonderful rituals of Christmas handed to me with a nice big dollop of illusion.
Waking up alone one young adult Christmas morning may be the cupful of reality everyone need experience to realize the true essence of the holiday. It comes with a longing to get back to a magical Christmas morning shared with little loved ones and the realization that it is your turn to be the one lending a hand in its creation. It is your turn to take work schedules, family politics and other everyday realities and transform them into one very special day a year topped with a dollop of illusion.
Seeing my children’s ever-increasing Rockwellian view of the holiday and its traditions still makes my favorite thing about Christmas the ritualism of it all. However, the joy I experience now isn’t from what is being handed to me but rather from what I’m handing over. Christmas is still filled with magic and ritual; it’s just a lot more work than I thought.
Shannon Szyperski and her husband Michael are raising two children in Sylvania. E-mail her at email@example.com.