A Run In My Stocking

Confessions of A Recovering Perfectionist

The 3 Faces of Christmas Eve

I just finished reading A Christmas Carol. I never thought I’d read the book, having lost track of how many times I’ve seen the movie - multiple versions of the movie, actually - and feeling no need to read a story I can already quote. But I’m on a bit of a Dickensian streak right now and it is a seasonal story and, well, I needed something short to be sure I’d complete my Goodreads challenge of 24 books this year. (I’m actually now at 25, but I didn’t want to chance it. Some perfectionism dies hard.)

I know it sounds crazy, but I just discovered Dickens this year as I focused my leisure reading on catching up on classics. Somehow, he slipped through my reading repertoire for all these decades. It could be because several of his books have been made into movies, and I don’t tend to read and watch the same stories. There are just so many good ones and so little time to partake of them all. Suffice it to say, I’m making up for it now as I begin my 4th Dickens of the year. (A Tale of Two Cities.) Once I get into the rhythm of a writer, especially when that writer hails from a different century, I find it easier to keep going. But back to our story. Our Christmas story.

I grew up celebrating a kind of secular Christmas. Like most humans, we thrive on tradition and feelings of goodwill and the combo platter of food, family, and festivities. And, like most people gathering for their seasonal celebrations, we also serve up a smorgasbord of stress, anxiety, and family tensions. (Christmas happens to be the framework of our particular feast, but neither experience is exclusive to this holiday - lest I leave anyone feeling left out.) So it seems that this festive season has multiple personalities. Like Scrooge, who had 3 diverse Christmases in one night, I have 3 possible holidays about to happen. Also like Scrooge, my Christmases relate to the past, the present, and the future. I’ll call them The 3 Faces of Christmas Eve.

  • The first face is Christmas Eve White. This is the Christmas I imagine as bright and shiny and filled with the milk of human kindness. I cook and bake and clean and wrap and listen to Christmas music and have a general sense of happy anticipation. It is the Christmas of an imagined and idyllic future. This is often fraught with disappointment.
  • The second face is Christmas Eve Black. This is the Christmas that I worry about. Being annoyed and intolerant, wishing it was over, and wondering why I ended up in this particular family. It is the Christmas of remembered conflict and strife from the past. This is often doomed with dread.
  • The third face of Christmas Eve (if you recall the movie) is just Jane. Which kind of fits. The dictionary defines Jane as “a girl or woman.” So just the basics with no embellishment. No past, no future, no good or bad. Just what’s so right now. 

It’s Christmastime, and I love my family and I have chosen to host and feed them and adorn them with gifts. I think that this year, I will practice being just Jane. You can be Jane or John along with me, if you’d like. And if we focus not on a fantasy of what Christmas should be, or a nightmare of what Christmas could be, maybe things will end up just jake. My wish for the holidays is to authentically say, it may not have been the best of times, but it wasn’t the worst of times. There were no hard times, and while I am not left with great expectations, I am happy and satisfied with a holiday well spent. Merry Christmas, one and all.