As much as I love Christmas, I have to admit that the day after might be my very favorite day of the year. Another day that could give it a run for the money might include the first day of summer vacation. But as much as I truly relish the day that all school activity ceases and I regain control over my schedule…it pales in comparison to the day after Christmas.
Christmas preparation this year was a bit different than past years. I mean I managed to accomplish most things even though some to do list items may have been tweaked a bit. For the first time in 20 years, I did not make my ½ hour trip to Homestead Gardens to stroll through the poinsettia greenhouse while my children watched the train garden, all of us sipping frothy, creamy hot cocoa and loading my trunk with glittery, shimmering poinsettias in unprecedented colors like teal and copper. However, this year time just did not allow for the trip. Instead, 2 days before Christmas I ran into the local garden store to purchase the run of the mill white, pink and red poinsettias.
Each year my children tromp through the woods in our backyard with garden pruners to bring me fresh cuttings of pine and holly for my Christmas arrangements filled with cranberries, wired ribbons and artificial sugared fruits. This year my children still held up their end of the bargain. They went out and brought back nature’s bounty for me only for it to continue to sit on my screened porch even at this very minute. No fragrant arrangements adorning my home this year. No time.
I worked diligently for a month doing my best to prepare for the big day. I can honestly say there wasn’t a day that went by from December 1st on that I wasn’t engaged in some preparation activity, but it still just wasn’t enough time. My birthday is December 22nd. So for a few days my family insists that time stands still a bit for my birthday while Christmas simmers on the back burner. Unfortunately that just always ups my level of stress. I feel like I am losing precious time devoted to my birthday rather than attending to the major upcoming event just a few days away.
We all live in a whirlwind of activity those weeks before Christmas with the energy level increasing by leaps and bounds the closer we get to the big day. I know that on Christmas Eve I am running on pure adrenalin. Preparing Christmas dinner entrees, ironing the linen tablecloth, rinsing the dusty Christmas china, getting the infamous Christmas Bubble Ring ready for rising overnight, all of the last minute wrapping while remembering to sit a spell with the kids to watch a Christmas movie and dance around to a few Christmas tunes trying to coach myself to breathe in and out slowly and evenly.
Christmas Eve always presents itself with a very late trip to bed, usually somewhere between 1 and 2 am. We are up writing our poetic clues for the morning scavenger hunt, wrapping our gifts and waiting patiently for the children to settle down and fall asleep so that we can sneak some presents under the tree all in time to make sure that we don’t coincide with Santa’s arrival. Thanks to Norad – our kids are able to track exactly when Santa will arrive so it is critical that we are in bed asleep well before that.
Christmas morning the kids are usually awake sometime around 5 am. We try to put rules in place to deter the kids from waking too early and expecting us to begin Christmas Day at a painful hour. This year my 10 year old daughter entered my bedroom at 6 am. When she spoke to me, I was completely startled. I could not believe that it was really 6am. I turned to my husband and said, “I literally feel like I JUST went to sleep.” But I immediately got up and jumped into the shower as my in-laws were expected to arrive at ANY moment and I had never had time to take a shower the day before. A shower was mandatory.
We spent the morning unwrapping presents and visiting with my in-laws until nearly 12:30 pm. I ran upstairs to change out of my pajamas and throw on some clothes in time for the next round of guests to arrive at 1 pm. Round two begins with my family. Presents, dinner and dessert are finished up and we hug and kiss everyone goodbye somewhere after 9 pm. The kids are still excited and whirling dervishes around the house while my rapid descent begins.
I went upstairs to go to bed around 10:30pm. Apparently, I was asleep with the lights on before my husband even took out his contacts and climbed into bed. I slept soundly until 9 am. When I awoke I was filled with the most peaceful satisfied feeling only felt at one other time in my life. Well four other times actually…
Each time after I gave birth to my beautiful babies there was an evening that I felt an unmistakable peace. It literally felt like I had reached perfection. A euphoric sensation that I had survived something so much bigger than myself and a satisfaction so deeply rooted in my soul. I can clearly recall those hours that I thought all was right with the world and I couldn’t ask for anything more.
The day after Christmas triggers this same reaction. The day after Christmas means we all survived. It means it all came together. It means that nothing is expected of me that day. I don’t have anything to prepare, buy, wrap, clean, wash, press or do that day. There is nowhere to be. No practice, game, rehearsal, job, assignment, carpool, or meal to prepare. The world has no expectation of us that day.
The day after Christmas allows all of us to stay in our pajamas all day long. It is the one day of the year that I don’t feel guilty when meals consist basically of candy canes, cookies and stocking treats. If necessary, I can easily pull out leftovers from Christmas Day dinner in between the movie marathon. All of the Christmas lights stay on all day long whether you can see them lit or not. The kids run around inside and out playing, laughing, sharing and getting along better than other day of the year.
The house is completely destroyed. Cardboard packaging, wrapping paper, overly-stuffed garbage bags, falling stacks of boxes and piles of presents litter the family room. The kitchen counters are filled with holiday paper cups half-filled with juices and sodas while dozens of tins are opened while little hands sneak a cookie constantly. We do manage to keep a narrow path through the family room to be able to get to the sofa where we can fling ourselves upon the cushions while we digest the latest eaten sugar plum.
Today has been especially wonderful while we all await the beginning of a Christmas snowfall. There is something that much more magical today watching the flakes float outside of the window while I am inside cozily dressed in my brand new flannel leopard print pajamas under a fuzzy blanket that I am sharing with one of my cherubs.
And I guess that is the thing that makes the day after Christmas so special. In my mind, each day I know that there is nothing more important than my family but life is structured so that we must stay in motion. But not the day after Christmas –on this particular day the world stops and I am allowed to live in each and every moment, never distracted by anything else, completely present and attentive, relaxed and peaceful, fully able to appreciate my favorite Christmas gift...my family.