The foil-covered Thanksgiving leftovers had barely hit the refrigerator when I heard it - the vaguely Yuletide-like opening of Wham!’s inexplicably evergreen 1984 hit “Last Christmas.” Here we go again.
Any other year, I would have immediately groaned or changed the channel, or launched into my usual rant about how it’s not actually a Christmas song, but just a whiny song about getting your heart broken that has the word “Christmas” in it. Aack! Why do they play it so much? I’d rather stick my head in the freezer along with the rest of the leftovers than have to deal with it One. More. Time.
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But not this year. Nope, when George Michael started in about how last Christmas he gave his heart to some hussy who gave it away the very next day, I didn’t turn it off. I cranked it up. And my previously cranky, fake Christmas song-averse heart grew three sizes each day, just like The Grinch. At least two.
Turns out that during this new holiday season, the uneasy exclamation point on an uneasy year for so many people, I’ve found that, as Auntie Mame once sang, I need a little Christmas right this very minute. And I’ll take it every way I can get it, even in the form of the world’s most annoying earworm-y not-really-a-Christmas song.
I can’t be the only one out there who feels especially in need of what is popularly known, in a non-denominational sense, as the Holiday Spirit. The mood in so many places has been…off. Unfriendly. Angry. Combative. Decidedly not about peace on Earth and goodwill toward men, or women, or puppies, or gerbils or anyone at all. Whether you’re optimistic or fatalistic about the changes coming next year for our country, you have to have noticed this thick cloud of divisive ickiness.
I’ve felt it too, as thick and impenetrable as pea soup, and I didn’t realize how deep I was stuck in there until I heard the familiar vexing strains of that song and it made me smile, broadly. I think I was hungry for some whimsy, some cheesiness, a solidly earnest and non-ironic hug of twinkly lights, unnatural-colored aluminum trees and cookies shaped like snowflakes, even if I’m not supposed to be eating any sort of cookies, no matter how they’re shaped.
I wanted to float on a wave of something unapologetically pretty and sweet, past all the gloom and doom, even if it’s temporary. It’s my happy place, and even though I’m usually a realist, I’m gonna live here for the next several weeks, OK?
Although I am a traditional celebrator of Christmas who married into a family that celebrates Hanukkah (and is seriously considering doing Kwanzaa this year, too), I do not mean to be non-inclusive in this holiday happiness. Like I said, the meaning of that feel-good Holiday Spirit is an all-around call to joy.
It’s about craving that joy so much that you’ll wear ugly sweaters and sing goofy songs, and pause to think about your fellow humans for at least the amount of time it takes you to hum “Winter Wonderland.” It is happy, in a real and non-hipster authentically curated and locally-sourced way. It probably has carbs in it.
I needed it so badly that I almost didn’t mind when the odd red-and-green item started popping up in random stores at the end of the summer when South Florida is more sweaty smells than “Jingle Bells.” It’s part of the phenomenon called “Christmas Creep,” where the holiday retail push pops up earlier and earlier. Most of the time, it feels gross, because it’s all about trying to extend the season for consumer purposes. It’s all very Scrooge-like.
But this year, instead of rolling my eyes when the Streeter Family DVR was suddenly 54 percent full of Christmas movies my mom recorded off the Hallmark Channel, I’ve made some popcorn and nestled into the couch alongside her. Who cares if they all seem to be about a plucky career gal who learns how to love by the inhabitants of a quaint snowy town, one of whom often turns out to be Santa Claus, an elf or some sort of angel? They’re sweet. They’re painless. They smell like eggnog and cookies.
And I’m in. This Christmas, next Christmas. Heck, even “Last Christmas.” I don’t mind.