There are a few typical Christmas-y mental images most of us have when it comes to the holidays (and to be inclusive, I acknowledge the Hanukah, Kwanza, and Winter Solstice celebrators who probably have similar “great expectations” pertaining to their respective holiday traditions). Of course growing up on the mostly sunny west coast, I’ve learned above all else to never expect snow.
My vision of the ideal Christmas is probably more Hallmark card-y, Michael Bublé-ish, Pinterest-y than I’ll verbally admit. My daydreams may involve tending the fireplace, hosting a myriad of friends and loved ones at a Gatsby-type holiday party complete with eggnog and truffles, and walking downtown to admire all the Christmas light displays with Bing Crosby’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” softly playing in the background like the ending credits of my very own low-budget, ABC Family Christmas movie.
I suppose the reality of my Christmases aren’t super far off, although they tend to involve more popcorn than truffles, more sweatpants, and less glamourous than said low budget, ABC Family Christmas movie. But this season is relative for each person, and there’s no “right” way to do it, no matter how many times snow is listed as a crucial component in every other Christmas song. I like listening to visiting Trudes good-naturedly arguing over the predicted success of upcoming sci-fi movies. I like being able to expand my collection of Nutcrackers every year. And while I don’t at all undermine the talent of ballerinas, I also like NOT watching local productions of “The Nutcracker.” These and more comprise my annual Christmas traditions.
But this post isn’t about how my Christmas is inherently better than the commercialized, Black Friday-inspired projections of how the holidays “should” look. I think we – myself most definitely included – can be hard on ourselves as we strive to do Christmas “right” and meet the great expectations others may have for us as we reunite with friends to catch up on the past year’s events. Ah yes, the expectation that somehow, we’re so much more mature and collected than the previous year and have it all together.
Reuniting with family friends is great, but can sometimes feel like one of those speed-dating, career-networking sessions. I have to be prepped with all the things I’ve done over the last few months, what I’m working on now, and what exciting things are coming up in the near future. As most of my friends and I are coming upon the last leg of college, the inevitable “So what do you plan on doing with a _________ degree?” is always fun to contend with. To which I perhaps cheekily answer with an “I’ll let you know when I do.”
Another equally “fun” inquiry is of course the “…And are you seeing anyone?” bit. And then awkwardly stepping around the whole “No? But surely someone will snatch you up one of these days” dance, and then awkwardly explaining that this has no bearing on my value as a person without sounding lame, all while attempting to convince myself that next year will be different and that watching “Love, Actually” on end will be a good substitute in the meantime.
But if there’s one thing I can expect with all certainty, it’s the “great” expectation that I can expect the unexpected. I’ve gotten an incredible 2014 out of doing so, so it can’t be a bad way to go.
I’d also like to think I can expect people’s general sentimentality to be more apparent thanks to a little thing called Christmas spirit, and hope that at least during this time, folks will be more inclined to help the homeless or even the neighbor they don’t particularly like. Even the obligatory “Merry Christmas!” adieu sales clerks say to you on your way out feels somewhat sentimental (I don’t really care if people say “Happy Holidays!” over “Merry Christmas!”; the goodwill is still there, why get political?).
I know when I come home from school after each term I can expect my family to welcome me with open arms. But to expect that my family’s health and overall well-being will be where it is now every single year after this one is a bit presumptuous. Maybe I’ve listened to the song “The Christmas Shoes” one time too many, but it’s nevertheless true that you never know when the tides will turn. Time really is everything, and I would hate to think I wasted it be worrying over whether or not I surpassed previous years’ outcomes for myself.
Hearkening to yet another Christmas jam, my personal “Grown-Up Christmas List” is comprised of the expectation most people have for themselves at any point of the year – to actually have it all together. While not a material item, even this seems a little selfish. Because more than that – SO much more than that – if I look back on this past year and come to find I have not changed even the smallest aspect of someone’s life for the better, that will have been the worst expectation to not have met.