I have been seeing a lot of posts and memes on Facebook lately describing feelings of excitement for the upcoming Christmas season. Most of the posts have indicated a desire to begin listening to Christmas music now. My particular favorite meme had a picture of a wide-grinned woman wearing a lighted wreath around her face with the caption “Me at 12:01 AM on November 1.” The memes inspired me to put on my Spotify Christmas playlist. Right now, George Michael is singing “Last Christmas” in the background. This song now has such irony since George Michael passed away on Christmas Day last year. Music always plays a role in my life, but its importance is even greater at Christmastime.
Christmas officially began on Thanksgiving Day at the Goodwin house. My dad would play all of the classic Christmas hits on the vinyl records that my parents have owned since the 1970s. The first album was always the Andy Williams Christmas album that began with “Happy Holiday.” Its big band opening was the perfect anthem to herald in the season. Of course, just at the end of the song, the record would skip and we would have to smack the player. We got used to singing it that way! We would decorate our home with garland and stockings and put up our fake tree. My mom would spend all day (and the night before) cooking and baking. I don’t know how it all got done, but it was always perfect.
As we get older, many things change, including the way we celebrate the holidays. After I moved out of my childhood home to live life on my own, and later with my husband, Christmas remained the glue that held my family together. We began the tradition of having Christmas Eve at Aunt Carol’s house and Christmas Day at my parents’ home. On Christmas Day, it was just the four of us: our original family unit of my mom and dad, my brother, and me. No matter what was happening in our life we always came back to Christmas. The music continued to play.
Then in 2010, my brother reached out to our half-sister, my father’s daughter. After an ambivalent beginning, the five of us began to form a new family. We all welcomed each other into our homes and began scheduling three Christmases! My dad insisted that the family have Christmas dinner, even if it was the day after Christmas. His vision of family is something I have always loved. It was somewhere between “The Godfather” and “Roseanne.”
After my father suddenly passed away in 2013, one of the first things we all thought of was how much he loved the holidays. What would we do without him? How could we even think of doing it without him? We were hurt. We were lost. We were heartbroken. We realized how much we took our holidays with him for granted.
We managed to still get together that first Christmas without him. Somehow we managed to put up his tree. My brother even assembled the train set and Christmas village under the tree. I was so happy to see that. The lights on the tree and in the village had a new meaning for me. It was like Daddy was living on in a new way. I began to think of all of the little things he would say and do during Christmas and it made Christmas happy for me. He loved repeating the lines from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” We used to think he was such a dork, but I giggle every time I think about it now.
The years have gone on and I still have my many Christmas memories and continue making new memories as our family has so greatly expanded. All of my cousins, aunts, uncles, and their families make the holiday a wonderful time. The new version of Christmas makes me just as happy as the Christmases I knew as a boy. It was my conscious choice to enjoy it.
We all have a choice to make–not just at Christmas, but every day–to be happy or to be sad. We can control the thoughts we allow ourselves to have. How will you be guided? Will you listen to the holy spirit or the evil spirit? They are both right there. The evil spirit is constantly talking and the holy spirit is constantly listening. One of my favorite verses from the Bible is Psalm 46:10, which says “Be still, and know that I am God.” There are so many times that when things get crazy, we can just “be still.” When the evil spirit is telling you, “Why bother? The holidays are ruined!” you can just “be still and know.” It’s amazing what happens when you push negativity out of your mind and allow His spirit in.
So go ahead, put on the Christmas music. Find your DVDs of “A Christmas Story.” Most importantly, plan to spend Christmas with your family this year. It can be your biological family or your chosen family. The people in your life love you. They might just need you to call them. Who cares if it’s November 1st?