Ayla and Mr. V, November 2006
It's true: I used to swear off Christmas music until December 1st.
My ghosts of Christmas past cringed at red Starbucks cups in November. I worked in retail and bemoaned the arrival of Christmas merchandise in August and September. The one year I sent out Christmas cards, I think I mailed them on December 21st. And felt good about that.
But come on: I also used to wear Old Navy logo tees and get Brazilian waxes. I used to listen to Nelly and buy thongs.
You see why I'm not given to nostalgia.
As I got older, time got shorter. Each day a smaller portion of the whole than it once was. This year I watched the Fourth of July fireworks and told myself Christmas was just around the corner. "Stop worrying about Christmas money," the husband said. "It's a long time a way."
But now you see: it wasn't.
It was easy for me to decry the Early Onset of Christmas when I wasn't actually responsible for making Christmas. Back in college, December 1st hit and I had four languorous weeks to sit around the house and wait for my mom to deliver Christmas to my doorstop. Gradually the house would plump, with cookies and sleigh bells, fat pine limbs and twinkling lights, and I, with my unadulterated hours and hours to sit by the tree reading The Mists of Avalon, wondered what the heck my mom's problem was and what everyone was so stressed about.
Our first Christmas, Mr. V and I didn't even get a tree. (We couldn't afford one). We hopped a plane and arrived in Palm Desert, where Christmas was waiting for us, balmy and palm-decked. Mele Kalikimaka. No stress in that.
Now, however, it's up to me to do Christmas. It is up to me to gather lights and food coloring, presents and sugar plums. It is up to my husband to hunt down the money, the recipes, the ligonberries and horseradish. I have a dream of Christmas, one that includes a feathery flocked tree and fat cermanic bulbs strung up on my rooftop, click click click. Now, I think: of course I am listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween. Of course my children have written their Christmas lists, and you bet your bottom stocking I'm sipping Gingerbread Lattes and delighting in my red cups. I have a magic show to produce. I have two children who still believe in Santa Claus. Great things take time, you know?
Let no one judge you. Especially none of my ghosts, 22 and self-assured, rolling my eyes and silently judging all merry making in the month of November. Listen to your music. Do your Black Friday strategizing. Drink your Peppermint Mocha's and string up your lights, because there is ancient wisdom in these traditions.
This time of year, we all need the light.
(And if you see any live Christmas trees, let me know. I AM READY.)
Because I would like to aid in your merriment, here are my favorite Christmas albums.
Noels Celtiques: Celtic Christmas Music From Brittany. (Not that I'm partial). Gorgeous music. "Christmas at Sea" is so evocative. I can feel the old ship beneath me. The sea and the snow. The smell of pipe smoke. People dancing on the deck. Perhaps I've shared too much.
The Christmas Revels: In Celebration of the Winter Solstice. The sound of this album is one of my earliest memories. It wouldn't be Christmas without it.
Medieval Baebes: Mistletoe and Wine. Look, you're not going to find "Deck The Halls" or "Jingle Bells" here. It's old world solstice music, some of which was eventually changed into old world Christmas music. I love it deeply.
The Victorian Christmas Revels. This is one of the Mister's favorites. Long into February, I catch him singing "Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat" in a British accent. It's awesome. Every time I put this cd on, I feel like I'm standing on the streets of Victorian London. There's snow on the ground, nutmeg and cinnamon in the air. The street is bustling with fellows selling roasted almonds and hot honeyed buns. Across the way a group of pink-cheeked children are warming their hands over a fire and now, for some reason, everyone has begun to sing together. It's wonderful.
A Very She & Him Christmas. This is a new favorite. It's vintagey and, just around the edges, a little melancholy. I dig it.
Wassail! Wassail! Early American Christmas Music. Another by the Revels. A woman reads a story recounting a long ago prairie Christmas, a Laura Ingalls type family, a hunt in the snow. It makes me cry. Every time. In a warm and grateful way.