Saturday, December 24, 2005

Tonight is Christmas Eve, 2005.

The last six days of December always feel like limbo. We spend a month working toward Christmas, and then the day arrives like a steam valve -- and we sit empty for a week, waiting for the New Year to begin. If we accomplish anything during the interim, it's usually either retrospective on the previous year or conceiving resolutions for the next.

We should designate it National Decompression Week.

I remember as a kid, lying in bed, trying to stay awake to hear the reindeer landing on my roof. And of course, when you're three years old, you hear the wind or the house settling and you immediately tense, wondering if that was the sleigh. Maybe it seems silly years later...but it was exciting, as a kid. It was fun.

As an adult, the tension has more to do with coordinating Christmas: buying presents for everyone, planning where you'll meet family, making sure everything is wrapped. It's mundane, and far less pleasurable than chewing a candy cane while wondering about the logistics of Santa's journey -- but the level of emotion is the same. The days leading into the 25th are a held breath, and the aftermath is a sigh of relief.

That's not to say Christmas isn't fun. But it's an emotional apex, and we all need the following week to drift back down. And then we launch into another year, resetting our collective odometer and marking another notch.

These experiences tend to be communal; and this year, the Christmas spirit has been elusive. Everyone has been overwhelmed; and everyone seems to agree that, just as some Sundays don't feel like Sunday, the past month hasn't felt like Christmas. But it's arrived nonetheless, and it's going to pass like any other.


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