When Martin Crosbie first invited me to be part of the 12 Blogs of Christmas with eleven other writers, of course I said yes. I love blogging, I love Christmas, and I love other writers.
However, as the date approached for me to prepare my post, several things made me stop and take stock:
- I wanted to write something original and something meaningful - but what can be said about Christmas that hasn’t been said already?
- I wanted to write something that compares to the efforts of the other participating writers
- A huge number of work and writing deadlines all packed together like coupled rail cars wending their way through my December
- The recent deaths of a friend’s mother, and a friend’s son, which reminded me that life does not care that it is Christmas
- The usual stresses of winter—ailing mother, geriatric cat, viruses abounding in my children’s school and in our house
Which led me to the the more creeping and interesting question: Do I really love Christmas? Do I love Christmas enough to wax poetic about it in a blog? Or more importantly, what can I say about Christmas that is true to me?
I have always had somewhat of a yo-yo relationship with Christmas
As a writer, both of fiction, and of evaluation reports, research reports, and a whole panoply of other reporty reports, my deadlines are often packed around Christmas as my clients try to close off their projects for the year and move onto new things in January. There is something about the hard stop deadline of Christmas (and of June for that matter) that makes everyone go deadline crazy.
I also get deadline crazy around December
My deadline thinking goes like this: If I can just get this report or this novel finished, I can have two weeks off at Christmas to finally relax a little (usually this just means do half as much work as I normally do). However this glimmering mirage of eggnog, gleaming lights, good cheer, goodwill to man (and woman), and spending days in my skiing long underwear (instead of my pajamas as I usually do) drives me and many others forward to make the first two to three weeks of December very busy, and sometimes stressful.
These days, I look up from my desk around December 20th and realize (although I have in fact known it all along) that I did get all my reports and writing finished (yay!), but I have not purchased a single gift, decked the tree, located a turkey or written a Christmas card. Then begins the mad frenzy of “doing Christmas” that starts on December 21st. This is all accompanied by a bunch of existential meanderings (both vocalized and in my mind) regarding whether anyone should really celebrate Christmas given all of the troubling things happening in the world, the environment, and our community.
On the other hand, when my kids were little and I did not have a paid job, and I had not yet started to write fiction in earnest, I *did* Christmas.
When I did Christmas, the cultivated Christmas tree went up on December 1st. Gift shopping started in November, cards with a family Christmas letter and hand written notes to everyone went out the first week of December and menu planning for the week of sumptuous Christmas meals started in the second week of December. I hosted dinner parties and belted out the Christmas music. No two gifts could have precisely the same wrapping. I was an expert in ribbon application and styling, and I actually wept when my husband forced me to take down the tree in early January.
But *doing* Christmas actually led me to many sad points where Christmas did not fulfill my hopes and expectations, and I could not let go of the fact that many people are less fortunate than me. But this blog is not about that. It is about writing. It is about being funny, and irreverent, because that is what I do best. So I wasn't going to write about the meaning of Christmas or my relationship with it.
I thought of many potential topics for this post
I wanted to write about something meaningful, or funny, or useful, or writerly. I ran through many possibilities.
I considered Christmas gifts for writers
There are lots of those kinds of posts. At the top of my list are those stick-up weekly calendars that go at the bottom of your computer screen, so I don’t completely forget about a work meeting when I am absorbed in finishing a novel, like I did last week. They are sold out unfortunately, for good reason I suspect. Then there is that book Save the Cat about screenwriting, and wool socks—writers in cold climates can never have too many wool socks.
I would add to this list post-it notes of all shapes, sizes and colours. I use them constantly to write down passwords, things I have to do, story ideas, and edits that must be made. Then there are the harder to buy items for writers: sleep, snow (okay that might be only for writers who live in ski resort towns), and readers (anyone who can give me readers is welcome to come for rum eggnogs at my house at any time). But aside from the sold out calendar and the book (which I bought for myself last night), I don’t know if I really need anything. So I nixed this post (but still would be happy to receive socks and post-its).
I contemplated a post about the best Christmas scenes in books
My personal favourites are the Christmas scenes in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and A Christmas Carol. But Martin Crosbie already has A Christmas Carol tied down in his post, and it looks like Stylist magazine agrees with my choices regarding the best Christmas scenes as my two faves are one and two on their list. Check it out.
Having not been a consumer of Christmas fiction, I was amazed to see the number of novels and stories by well-known writers about Christmas. If you want to read about Christmas, there seems to be many options. The Dr. Who episode that replicated A Christmas Carol, as only Dr. Who (and the delightful Matt Smith) can do, is also worth a watch for a lovely Christmas scene. But in the end, I have not read enough books with Christmas scenes to make that the focus of my post.
I was going to do a post about writing over Christmas
Because as you know, many famous writers write every single day, including holidays. I, although clearly not famous, will be writing over Christmas as I have a January 5th deadline on a short story. So I thought about the itemized list I could create for mixing writing, eggnog and ho ho time. However that felt wrong somehow. Although I do have a deadline, I hope to be writing less, and I hope to do the bulk of the writing for that piece this coming week and the first week of January.
So, I think that brings me back to my original focus—what Christmas over my many complicated years of doing Christmas has come to mean to me.
What does Christmas really mean to me?
I am not particularly religious, so Christmas, apart from some vague longing that there is something greater than ourselves that is in more evidence at Christmastime, has limited meaning to me on that front (although I do read tarot cards and inexplicably still weep in churches and at the end of Christmas specials about Santa, Rudolf and Dr. Who). My kids are older, and although they still love Christmas, it is not the pure magic to them that it was when they were three and five. Moreover, I recognize the difficulties of Christmas to many families, who can’t afford gifts or turkey, who have someone sick or no longer with them, who live in a war zone, or who face other challenges. I am not opposed to having belongings or nice things, or things that make you happy, but I am troubled by the commercial frenzy that accompanies Christmas for many of us who really don’t need anything.
Despite all of this, Christmas is still a special time of year to me.
Of course it is a time for giving, offering the potential to give to those less fortunate than you. It is also a time of brief rest, when for one day (pretty much the one day of the year), most stores are closed, and most people (save for those amazing people who provide essential services) are not working. It is a true deep winter's night. It is also a time of transitions--taking stock of the year that has just passed and setting new goals for the following year. And it is also a time when, especially for people who work from home and spend a lot of time on their own (like me), we spend a little more time in the company of friends and family.
So, for everyone out there who has a complicated relationship with Christmas, Happy Deep Winter's Night. May 2015 bring you everything you ever wanted (and world peace and a whole host of other necessary things).
And snow… did I mention snow? Oh right, that’s just for those of us who live in ski resort towns.
I hope you enjoy the contributions of the following authors and check out their websites (I’m gathering links as fast as I can!) so you can learn more about them.
- December 14: RJ Crayton
- December 15: Jamie Lee Scott
- December 16: Heather Haley
- December 17: Jennifer Ellis
- December 18: Helga Zeiner
- December 19: Laurie Boris
- December 20: ML Gardner
- December 21: Roberta Kagan
- December 22: Sarah Lane
- December 23: Dianne Greenlay
- December 24: Wendy McClelland
- December 25: Martin Crosbie