As I wrote Christmas cards for our friends and families this year, I kept repeating “this year has been a crazy one” and alternated it with “this has been an unusual year”. After a while, I paused and was a little annoyed with myself. But no matter how hard I tried, “this has been an unusual year” is just the plain truth I couldn’t coat with anything sweet.
Of course there were many things to be grateful for amidst all this chaos. There were weddings, births, job promotions, healthier body and all that. Still, I feel that 2020 will always be remembered as “that year when Covid-19 played a joke on us all.”
That being said, I managed to pour my hearts out in picking the right Christmas cards for everyone and wrote my wishes for them. Not surprised, but I almost forgot how peaceful and joyful writing cards can be. I was also happy that most of the cards arrived before Christmas (yay!), although it will probably take another week or two to reach those back home in Indonesia.
There was a lot to be excited for this Christmas. For instance, it’s my first Christmas with K as a family, and in Boston nonetheless. Christmas has always been a big thing in my family. Our old Christmas tree takes the centre stage and my mom would take boxes of Christmas ornaments and made us all decorate it together. Christmas lights will be up and our staircases covered in plastic wreath, festive ribbons, and flowers. I adore that tree and my favorite part of Christmas over the years has always been the lights. The gentle, dim, soft yellow light of the tree. I fell asleep so often on the sofa by the tree, lulled by the lights (mom half yelling “go to your room and sleep properly” on the background, though). Growing up, I would associate gentle things, warmth, and happiness with Christmas.
I think throughout my life Christmas has been redefined so many times. T’was Christmas as a child, t’was Christmas as my father passed away, and this year, Christmas with K as a new family. In the spirit of experiencing US Christmas (haha), we actually got a tree!
Meet Mini the Christmas tree. I am obsessed with her. I have heard that Christmas trees smell great, but did not fully comprehend that until Mini sits in our room. The room was filled with Mini’s fresh smell since day 1. It’s only one tree but each time I go into our room, it feels as if I was walking right into a pine forest.
For a while, Mini just sits there quietly. K and I got busy at work and we promised ourselves to go shopping for some Christmas decorations on the last weekend before Christmas only to find everything was sold out already. We did get that one thing that matters the most though: the lights.
Tell you what, at this point, I don’t think we need any other decoration item.
Back home, Christmas trees are decorated with ornaments that you buy at the stores. My mom used to take me to the stores and get one or two new ornaments every December. When I told K that we should get our own, he looked confused. He said, “Christmas tree is decorated by memories and gifts from friends.” My initial reaction was, “Huh what? People give Christmas ornaments as gifts?”
What K was trying to say is that the tradition here for Christmas tree is to adorn it with mementos. Things that marked your journey. If it was your first Christmas tree together and it was somewhat bare, that’s perfectly normal. You can get yourself an ornament each year and sort of build the tree year by year.
I like the idea. It was a little different from Christmas tree tradition at home, but hey, as depressing as 2020 could be, it was also a year of many firsts for me. I remember my father used to put all the Christmas cards he received from his friends on the tree. He said he doesn’t understand ornaments and the art of decorating, but he loved receiving Christmas cards. This year, I’ll celebrate him that way.
I am grateful for all the friends from different part of the world who took their sweet time to send us their wishes. Christmas is merrier with them, even in this pandemic time.
On to Christmas morning! It was certainly a busy one. We woke up and joined my family for a Christmas prayer and reflection, and proceeded with opening presents. You know, I firmly believe that no one is too old for Christmas, Christmas mornings, and Christmas presents. I had a fun Christmas morning filled with giggles and the sound of paper wraps being torn, even if it was just me and K. Absolutely love all the presents and the warmth it brings in this cold season, but my favorite got to be this one:
Talk about seasoning the kitchen with love, I made this easy and super yummy Black Berry Crisp for Christmas dessert. K and I couldn’t stop eating it, it’s yummy both cold and warm. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also add ice cream and pretend you’re sitting in a cafe somewhere – don’t we all need some good quality time drinking cappuccino and eating dessert while trying to read in a coffee shop. Anyway, the recipe works with most berries, just be careful if you’re using strawberries, since they tend to be a little more watery.
Other than that, I’ve been enjoying some Christmas movie marathon (movie marathon got somewhat tricky these days when you’re full and warm from wine and comfy blankets – is this a sign of getting older?) and building snowman with K (definitely not getting older, then).
We managed to watch Christmas Break In – pretty much home alone all over again, but instead the setting was in a school; After We Collided – I don’t know if it’s a Christmas movie, pretty sure it’s at least a PG-13 and boy, I can’t believe that girl Tessa. How toxic can a relationship go?; Case #39 – which was an old 2009 movie about an evil child (I knew there’s something wrong with Lilith.); and finally, Klaus – Please, please, please watch this one on Netflix. I know you guys are probably all over Pixar’s Soul, but give this beautifully animated movie a chance. It’s such a beautiful and warm Christmas movie, the kind that makes you feel ooey-gooey inside and melted all your worries and hardship.
This holiday season was filled with mixed feelings. To say that I am happy to celebrate Christmas in a winter wonderland with that one person I want to spend all Christmases with will be an understatement, but I am also away from everyone else I care about and it makes me sad. I thought I’m done grieving for my father, but I still broke down crying every time because December reminds me too much of him. I am content with staying home and craft different menus for Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner, but I long to travel and explore East Coast all the same.
When I take a quite moment of reflection like this though, I realize that above all else, I am grateful. And so this is Christmas: a joy no one can’t take away, not even a pandemic. A time to appreciate all the good and the bad things that happened in a year, a reminder to share the warmth of friendship, hot chocolate, Christmas lights, and warm cuddles. And especially this Christmas – a grateful heart, that after so many years, we finally celebrate Christmas for what it really is.
Merry Christmas xx