Christmas has proven to be remarkably flexible over the centuries. A pagan holiday co-opted by early Christians as a celebration of Jesus’ birth (sorry folks, he was more likely born in the spring, when Judean shepherds traditionally let their flocks out at night), enthusiastically celebrated by wassaliers to a degree that led to its banishment by numerous churche reformers over the centuries, merged with Nordic folklore, embraced by merchants — Christmas keeps evolving, which not only explains its endurance but also demonstrates how the holiday can convey such widely diverse messages to so many people.
For me, Christmas has always been about family. Memories of early mornings in my parents’ home, tearing through gift-wrapped presents with my cousins, mid-afternoon meals that extended into the evening — and more recent moments, decorating the tree with ornaments my wife and I gathered over years of visits to faraway lands, seeing the happiness in my own children. Christmas has the potential to bring families together in a way that’s near impossible at other times of the year, and it’s that power which The Girl on the Piccadilly Line so wonderfully describes today. Being English, her holiday traditions seem to this Yank, to borrow one of the metaphors she uses to describe her parents’ different traditions, “a bit like driving a courtesy car that’s the same model as your own: same, same but different.” She references several English customs, products, and foods that were completely foreign to me, yet in the vivid descriptions of her family I could see my own, both past and present (especially in the spirited Monopoly games). To employ a metaphor of my own, reading her post was like eating a favorite meal flavored with different spices — definitely not the same old thing, yet still comfortably familiar.
Each Christmas is a huge effort for her family, and they spend weeks preparing for the holiday, but the rewards are obvious in each word of her post. Perhaps that should be the lesson of the day — Christmas is what you make of it, and for all of the time and energy you give to it, the holiday will return so much more.