What is it about Christmas and Nostalgia? It’s like, for one month out of the year it’s perfectly OKAY to be gooby. There’s a reason 53 people out there have been watching “A Christmas Prince” every day for the last 18 days, NETFLIX. Stop calling us out on it!*
*Them, I mean.
But think about it: The songs we listen to on repeat are the same ones we’ve heard for 10, 20, 50 years. Even a lot of the new recordings of old songs still play to a classic tune – every artist puts out a Christmas album, showcasing their favorites and making them their own, inevitably producing a record that’s a completely different style from anything else they’ve ever released….simply because it’s Christmas. We cling to old movies from the ’40s and ’50s – and now of course anything from the ’90s is practically antique. The decorations we see in store windows feature Elves on the Shelves, rosy-cheeked vintage Santas and tin foil trees with pastel glass ornaments. Even the Ugly Sweater trend hearkens back to the sweaters our moms used to wear when we were growing up…completely UN-ironically at the time.
You see, we didn’t really have Popular Christmas Culture until the advent of film and recorded music, much of which gave way in the mid-20th century. And the first widespread exhibitions of Christmas movies and songs were original – not just some Hallmark movie trope done time and time again. We acknowledge these performances as “the best,” and we remember those same recordings playing in the kitchen while our grandmothers cooked Christmas dinner and our mothers taught us how to use a cookie cutter and properly roll out the sugar cookie dough.
Last year was the first Christmas Day I didn’t spend at home with my parents. And it was the first time I truly realized just how many silly, non-descript traditions we have. Rushing to get the sugar cookies done before the candlelight service at church, running out to pick up Chinese food in the midst of wrapping last-minute gifts, staying up late watching A Christmas Story on TBS for 24 hours, coming downstairs – but only AFTER the obligatory photo at the top of the stairs, playing the Disney Christmas Parade in the background while we take turns opening gifts for hours and snack on Christmas cookies until the breakfast casserole is ready at noon.
Of course, every other family has their own traditions, as well. At Burch Farm, we’re up early feeding the horses before there’s even a chance to think about staying in our PJs and sitting around the fire. Last year, it was so warm that after breakfast, a couple of us hiked up the hills behind the house, snapping pictures at the top and breaking a sweat before we made it back down. I saw a quick news story this morning with folks talking about their own traditions – like eating on the floor. Things like this you can’t make up, you can’t plan…much of it probably evolves out of a quick problem solution, then develops into a ritual you just can’t seem to kick.
But no matter where we’re from or who our family is, eventually we come to find that many of our memories are practically the same; spending Christmas Eve at Grandma’s house, playing with our new toys, board games with the family – just general togetherness. And so even the places and people that aren’t familiar feel that much closer simply because we’re all reaching towards the same things – Peace. And Love.
All of these bits and pieces are ingrained in our psyches. We can’t let go.
And come this holiday, we may not all have our grandparents anymore, we may not spend the holidays with the same people, and we may be crafting new traditions of our own whether out of desire or necessity. But we all still want to be kids at Christmas…
So we whip out that 20 year old N*Sync Happy Holidays CD. Or that 40 year old John Denver track we downloaded onto our Spotify that Mom always loved. We put on a Brenda Lee record. And we power up White Christmas on our digital streaming services. We munch on pieces of fudge made with someone’s secret recipe and curl up with someone new. And even though it’s different, it’s still the perfect Christmas. We create fresh memories and traditions that we’ll hopefully pass on one day and we make all the time we can for the people who made our Christmases bright in days gone by. And even when we can’t, we’re sure to bring a piece of them with us, whether we know it or not.