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Boy-oI have to admit, my Christmas Eve was a rough one. This isn’t the first Christmas we’ve been away from our families (it’s actually the second – the first was two years and two days ago when the precious little boy in that picture above was born), but for some reason this year I’ve really been feeling very far away from home. And we ARE far from home – 1,000 miles to be exact – but for the past few days I’ve been feeling the distance more keenly than usual.

Christmas this year just doesn’t feel very magical.

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and growing up I always loved helping decorate the house, listening to Christmas music, making Christmas cookies, and sitting around on Christmas day listening to my family tell stories. And after my parents divorced when I was 10, I got to have Christmas twice every year. (This is the ONE and ONLY perk of having divorced parents.)

But this year we didn’t get to go home. We can’t afford to, for one thing. And I’m also working today (Welcome to journalism!). I put up some decorations at our house, but they just feel so… meager compared to the decking of the halls I grew up with. This goes back to my “wanting” post a few days ago, that I need to try to want less and appreciate more. And I am trying, but it sure felt like such a trial last night. Silly, I know, but it felt important at the time.

My husband isn’t big on Christmas music, so I do my listening on the sly. (He did, though, without being asked or forced, put on some Christmas music last night during dinner of his own volition because he knows I like it.)

My husband made a lovely dinner of Swedish meatballs and lignonberries, which was delicious. But of course I fretted about our beat-up table and the fact that it just didn’t look very festive, despite the little centerpiece I threw together.

And I received a few text messages from various family members about the Christmas parties they were attending. I guess I just felt left out. I miss those loud parties where “the recipe” (read: lots of booze in a punch bowl with a splash of grenadine) flows freely and my mom and my aunt get laughing so hard they cry. I miss fondue night at my dad’s house, a Christmas Eve tradition. Sitting at home with just my husband and son felt woefully inadequate.

I had a bit of the Christmas blues, you might say.

But back to the magic: I had something of an epiphany last night. I realized that for so many years, my parents worked really hard to make sure I had a great Christmas. They took the time to put up the decorations and include my siblings and me in cookie making. They bought the Christmas tree and all those presents. They slaved over hot ovens for hours to make a nice meal. And they enjoyed themselves at those parties.

And I couldn’t help but wonder: how many of those Christmases did my parents have the Christmas blues? Their own parents were far away. For a few years there, Christmas happened despite a bitter divorce. I can’t ever remember my parents seeming out of sorts on this, my most favorite holiday. So I realized last night, as I sniffled and snuffled and generally felt sorry for myself, that maybe they sometimes felt a bit weighed down with the expectations of the holiday, but they didn’t show it because they realized how important it was that my siblings and me have a nice Christmas.

Christmas didn’t feel very magical last night, and it doesn’t really today. But I’ve resolved to make it magical for my son. And to enjoy myself doing it. Because watching Christmas through his eyes – and this is the first Christmas he’s been able to really participate – is magical. He’s awed by the presents and the pretty candles and the lights on the Christmas tree. Driving around at night he squeals happily as we drive past homes lit up for the season. He babbled all through our special dinner and he didn’t care at all if the centerpiece wasn’t Christmas-y enough. He loved opening presents from many of our family members and then played with his new toys while wearing his new shoes. And he just enjoyed being with us, even if it’s just the three of us.

It wasn’t the Christmas I grew up with, but it was our Christmas. Despite all our worries and cares, our little guy had a great time.

And that’s the true magic of Christmas.

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