On an episode of Modern Family last night, they celebrated Christmas on December 16th, because that was the only time they could all get together to celebrate the holiday. Of course, since it was Modern Family, the majority of the chaotic last-minute planning and rushing around for “the perfect tree” turned disastrous—and hysterical. Gotta love that show. In the end, everything turned out okay when good old dad arranged to have fake snow poured all over the front yard for an impromptu snowball fight. In conclusion, Christmas isn’t about December 25th. It’s about who you’re with and what you’re doing.
Jake and I head back to Ohio tomorrow to have our own fake Christmas. That’s right: Christmas comes December 13th this year! Yes, it’s been a bit chaotic. First, there was a wedding. Then, a mini-honeymoon. Then, Thanksgiving. Then, whoops! Where did the time go? It’s Fake Christmas already! Wedding thank you cards? What wedding thank you cards? I have shopping to do! But I’m ready. I did all my shopping. Packing will be a breeze, and my parents already have the ten-foot tree ready to be covered in tinsel Saturday afternoon.
Then, on December 12th, we’ll get dressed up like we’re going to church. (We won’t actually go to church this year, since Fake Christmas Eve is on a Monday, but you get the idea …) We’ll bag up all the presents for my aunt and grandparents, and we’ll head to Aunt Susie’s. She’ll have a counter filled with shiny liquor bottles and appetizers. I’ll mix drinks while eating warm artichoke dip. Jazzy Christmas music will play (probably James Taylor), and there will be a smattering of snow on the ground.
Next, we’ll head to Papa and Grandma’s. The night will be frigid, but the whole town of Perrysburg, Ohio, will have Christmas lights lit. It will smell different outside: like ice and gingerbread. My grandparents’ over-heated house will feel just right when we get there, but soon, we’ll tear off our coats and start to sweat.
My brother and I will pass out gifts. My family has held to the same Christmas Eve seating arrangement since I was born. My uncle passed away a couple years ago, but his seat is—and probably always will be—kept vacant. We go around in a circle, everyone opening one present at a time so we can all ooo and ahhhh. Frank Sinatra will be playing by then, and Grandma will reminisce about that one time she saw him play live in New York.
After staring at the Christmas tree for a while, we’ll all head home. Even though I’m almost thirty, I know I’ll try to go to bed early so that Christmas morning will come faster. Jake usually stays up a little later and talks with my dad. My mom and I always joke that we can hear Jake talking anywhere in the house. We can’t hear what he’s saying, but we can hear the deep bass of his voice peacefully rising toward the roof. I will curl into bed, knowing that this is the first Christmas Jake and I get to spend as husband and wife. My feet, as always, will be freezing.
The next morning, we all rise and shine by 7:30. Mom will already have chocolate raspberry coffee brewed. The Christmas tree will be plugged in, and outside, early morning sun will cast diamonds across the snow. We will open another round of presents, all of us in pajamas. An hour later, the whole family will come over. We will eat Mom’s breakfast casserole and sweet rolls. Afterward, us “kids” will show the grandparents what Santa brought. The rest of the day will be spent watching new DVDs, listening to Christmas music, and napping—lots of napping.
Huh. Fake Christmas sounds an awful lot like real Christmas to me …
Modern Family is right. Christmas isn’t about the date. I mean, seriously, we don’t even know when Jesus was born. Maybe He was really born on December 13th! Christmas is not a red number on a calendar. Christmas is the family traditions we cling to year in and year out. It’s about the people we’re with and the love we share. It’s about the old jokes we still tell and how we’ll always remember when Jake got a sticky frog toy stuck to my parents’ living room ceiling last year, and how the boys used tiny Nerf guns to shoot it down.
I can’t wait for Fake Christmas in Ohio. But I also can’t wait for my first Christmas morning waking up in Phoenix with my husband. This is our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. Bauer, and there is nothing fake about that.