It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Back in the summer when I was preparing to leave for Canada, it was with the intention to be back for Christmas. It would make for a conveniently placed six-month marker, long enough for me to have settled into my life in Toronto but not so long that I wouldn’t go completely crazy in missing my family. Obviously, plans change, and as the fall colours began to spread across the city, a visit in late October became more logical and feasible. I was desperately in need of my array of winter coats and sweaters that were gathering dust in my parents’ house and would be bulky and expensive to send, not to mention the heinous price of flights to the U.K. during the Christmas period. My dad’s 70th birthday happened to coincide with this time of the year, too, and I acknowledged that being there for that would mean more to me and to my family than being there for Christmas.
Because Christmas is just Christmas, right? I’m in my mid-twenties, the magic has all but worn off, topped off with a selection of gifts that tends to verge on the practical. Sure, the food and the warmth and atmosphere were all things I greatly enjoyed but I wouldn’t be missing all that much to spend the holiday somewhere different for a change.
I’m not sure when that feeling began to change for me. Whether it was the moment I landed back into cold, snowy Toronto and realised how the winter stretched ahead of me, or when I stared up at the towering lit-up Christmas tree in Nathan Phillips Square and was reminded of every over-sized tree my dad had brought home over the years, to my mum’s increasing despair. Maybe I felt it in how unsettled I’ve felt over the past week or so, or maybe it was in the moment that I went to see a festival-favourite, Green Book, again, and burst into tears at the family Christmas scene.
Whatever it is, it’s hit me over the past week that this will be the first time I spend Christmas without any of my family at all. There’ll be no dancing to Elvis with my dad as we put up the Christmas tree, no putting the bun dough in the sauna to get it to rise, no roll of the eyes from my mum when I request rice pudding on Christmas Eve morning. No traditional Finnish Christmas Eve meal or arguing with my brother over a game of Solar Trader. No hearing the Queen’s speech from the other room as I stack up plates, nursing a food coma drowned in brandy butter.
I thought I was feeling better about it, and this wasn’t the post I intended to write tonight. But then I rejigged another tradition, one that is entirely my own. For several years now, I’ve always taken an evening, Christmas gifts for my family collected together, and sat down to wrap them with Michael Bublé’s Christmas album on in the background and a few candles burning here and there. This year, I put on his album and did some extensive and complicated online shopping, instead – albeit with a spruce tree candle burning on my shelf to make it feel a little more like home.
And then, the song changed.
I’ll be home for Christmas…
And without even meaning for it to happen, I felt the tears spring to my eyes again. I could almost laugh at myself, if only I weren’t so busy sobbing.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.
I won’t be home for Christmas this year. I don’t know what this Christmas will hold. I have several wonderful offers from some of the wonderful people in my life and, what I do know, is I won’t spend it alone. Which, no matter what you believe or what you celebrate this season, is what I think these cold, dark winter months are all about.
Take care of yourselves this winter, and of those you love. All the best from me, today and every day.