Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s. Also known as the 50 or so most stressful, hectic, but ultimately love- and laughter-filled days of the year for me. Maybe more so for me this year, since the last couple of weeks or so have been combined with Week Before Finals Week (which, in grad school, is worse than Finals Week), my sister and her fiance’s graduation, and moving out of the apartment (my second move in 4 months). In this time, it would take a whole hand to count the number of times I’ve probably broke down due to holiday stress, plus one happy mistiness when my sister walked across the stage. I’ve always said I hated the holidays, mostly because I’ve always considered it all to be such a hassle; however, my Grinchy-ness has eased when it comes to decorating for Christmas in the last year or so. Although I still loathe putting up the tree at my house, I was excited to put up simple decorations at my boyfriend’s apartment.
Somehow, though, there are always nice parts of the holiday season that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’ve never been one for tradition simply because it’s “tradition.” Though we had a larger, family “Thanksgiving” the weekend before the actual date, due to my mom’s birthday and out-of-state relatives being in, on the real Thanksgiving, my mom, sister, and I had Papa John’s and ice cream, because that’s what we wanted. We danced around the kitchen island to music from an old 70s game show, and it was perfect.
Christmas has been interesting. My family does have one tradition that is kind of important to us. For as long as I can remember, we’ve attended the candlelit service on Christmas Eve. The cantata isn’t the special part of it, and quite honestly, I use that time to doodle in the program. The special part, the most beautiful part of any service throughout the entire year, is the time just before midnight when we pass the light from the Christ Candle in the middle of the advent wreath throughout the church while singing “Silent Night.” I still remember standing next to my Nan as we did this every year. Her eyesight was pretty bad, so she couldn’t read the hymnal, but she didn’t need it; she knew every Christmas hymn by heart. I don’t use it, either. At midnight, we turn the lights back on, blow the candles out, and sing “Joy to the World” before heading home. I was so happy to be able to share this tradition with Brian this year. Splitting up the holidays has proved a bit difficult for us so far. I think my family’s general easy-going attitude about when holidays are actually celebrated has made it easier. We finally got to exchange our gifts last night, but not until after one of my stress-induced near-breakdowns. (And ladies, he did good.) The gifts, the day, the food — none of that is as important as spending quality time with the ones I love.
New Year’s Eve is different. I think that’s because I look at it not only as the start to a new year, but the end to all the stress related to the holiday season. It’s finally a chance for me to really unwind and just chill for a few hours. I can’t wait for Sprowl’s Rockin’ Eve 2011 and the Tour of Dips. There is so much to look forward to in the coming year: Baby O’Neil, my 2nd college graduation, Carmen’s wedding… and I’m excited for all of it.