Today was Christmas, and it was good. Mellow and relaxing, for the most part. Fun, at times. Most of my favorite aspects of Christmas — the Lebanese food, giving my loved ones gifts, not doing any work — were all in effect. There were video calls with my family members I couldn’t see in person. There was some socially distant and masked-up visiting from across the yard for a few minutes with others. It was, on balance, a good day.
But I cannot deny that it was weird.
The weirdness comes from not having the usual big to-do for the holiday with my enormous extended family and a generous cadre of friends dropping by throughout the afternoon or evening, all full of laughing and telling stories and eating and drinking together. Nope, that’s not really happening this year. But it’s okay. Subdued, but not bad. This way is necessary, and it’s also temporary. I think, I hope, next year will be different.
Some of my friends and cousins who work in the medical industry have already gotten their first doses of the covid vaccine, so that’s good. And while there’s nothing but absolutely bonkers nonsense bordering on mildly terroristic narcissism coming out of the upper reaches of the government, the larger horizon still provokes optimism.
Like most people, I had to put a pause on so many of my usual holiday traditions this year. But not all of them. The 12 Days of Holiday Music here, for example, is something I love doing and had no reason to halt. And just as I begin the series each year with The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” for its personal significance to me and for the comforting sense of routine (or ritual?), I think I’m going to end the series with a repeat song that I first included here in December of 2014, because it’s special to me.
“The Week Between” by John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton is one of my favorite holiday songs ever. It’s mellow and sweet and a little melancholy all at the same time.
When I was a child, Christmas was everything. Toys, delicious food, the end of my father’s unbearably long working hours until the next holiday season, and a party with my extended family, which meant cousins to play with as far as the eye could see. A very special tradition we had was that we always spent the night at each other’s houses on Christmas night, thereby extending our holiday for yet another day. We would stay up late and tiptoe into the kitchen after our parents went to bed for a “midnight snack” — usually cheddar sliced off an enormous block of cheese and Coke in six-ounce glass bottles. We played board games. We told each other scandalously funny jokes. We played with toys and watched movies and tried to see how late we could stay up. We almost never made it to actual midnight at that age. I lived for these times.
But once all of that was over, and we all went back to our own houses, to play with our own toys and siblings only, with no more excited wrapping of gifts, no more days spent cooking food in preparation for the holiday, no more anything much to look forward to until my birthday in March…
Well, I would inevitably fall into low spirits. One year my dad explained to me that I had the “Christmas blues,” the let-down once all the festivities were over. And this persisted for several years until I was old enough to start insisting my family do something, anything, to celebrate New Year’s Eve.
So. Flash forward a few decades. The time between Christmas and New Year’s is now, honestly, just about one of my very favorite weeks of the year. I have some time off before school starts up again, and the hustle and bustle of orchestrating a holiday for my family has also been accomplished. Everyone is home and just hanging out. People drop by for little visits, maybe, something low-key, or they wait until our annual New Year’s Eve bash (which also will not be happening this year).
I can devote time to creative projects and reading for fun and watching movies and sleeping in and whatever else. It’s one of the very few truly relaxed, free times I have as we put the subconscious stress of the holidays behind us and look forward to new beginnings.
The line in this song that has always resonated with me the most, that made me love this song so much, is in the chorus: “In the week between, all your drunken uncles and cousins’ cousins are on the scene…” (Not that I’m a fan of drunken people in general.) Ever since I was a child and all the way until just last year, that special time with my cousins is so much of what I love about life.
And then there’s the next line: “The week between, New Year’s resolutions in conversation with last year’s dreams.” I mean, that’s just poetry. And it’s exactly how my mind pivots from one year’s ambitions to the next, and that, too, is comforting to me, a far horizon folding itself toward me as I stand on an ever-hopeful shore.
So. Enough rambling for one night. I’m going to go fix myself a snack of very soft pita bread, hot enough to melt the butter I spread across the inside of its pocket. Maybe some sliced cheddar, maybe share a Coke with my husband. Text back and forth with my cousins, pictures of our kids. (They miss each other, too.) Then get into bed and read a new book.
I hope your winter holidays, if you celebrate any, have been just what you needed this year, or that you at least have had a moment to enjoy the calm, that you’ve had some calm to enjoy.
Now, enjoy this delightful song.