Even more than my own birthday, I love me the Christ child's! But make no mistake—I've got no use for God—Christmas is purely a secular celebration for me. And celebrate I do. Mid-December I make the pilgrimage to pick up my tree. Friends scoff at this practice, thinking it a waste of funds, an environmental affront, and an out-and-out eccentric practice for a woman who lives by her lonesome. I pay them no mind and can usually convince one or two strapping lads to come along for the part where we carry it home. Much to my dismay, the Charlie Brown wanna-be trees of my youth have been replaced by uniformly clipped and trimmed perfect cones, but I do my best to locate the most misshapen one in the lot. Once the bottom is trimmed off and the branches allowed to fall out overnight, I'm ready to get started. Some years I have a full-on tree-trimming party; other years just a few especially deserving friends are invited to share in my Yuletide delirium. We carefully hang my exceptional collection of ornaments, drink eggnog, then I rearrange ornaments that guests have hung incorrectly (the Pope always goes on the left side!). By the time the tree is ready for tinsel, I am usually so giddy that I lapse into a fit of uncontrollable caroling. (And FYI, I'm not a tinsel purist—I alternate between carefully placing the strands and just tossing big clumps of the stuff.)
Christmas has always been my favorite holiday. One of my best memories is of my fifth or sixth Christmas. We had just moved from a house in the burbs to a god-awful basement apartment in Queens, New York, so my dad could finish up his MBA at Columbia. It had no fireplace, and I was certain that Santa wouldn't be able to make an appearance. My mom—from whom I definitely inherited the festive gene—crafted one out of brick-patterned cardboard so we had somewhere to hang our stockings. Being an observant lass, I reminded her that there was still no chimney for him to climb down. She assured me that the jolly guy visited city kids via the front door. And she was right!
Not every Christmas was as jolly as that one, though. There were a few tough years after I turned punk rock. Mom started buying me gifts designed for the daughter she wished she'd had instead of the one she got stuck with. One year there was the flowered dress with lace collar ("Look, honey, it brings out the blue in your hair!"), another year, a truly creepy handcrafted nativity scene, and any number of patently unsuitable trinkets that I've since managed to block out. She eventually came around (about the same time my natural-ish hair color returned) and Christmas got fun again. My lack of religion continue to distress her, but she eventually started to respect me, and my gifts reflected that—she even bought me an Elvis clock one year! She died a few years ago, but I know that she is delighted that I carry on her festive spirit.