Today may be the day after Christmas to you, but for me, it begins my most favorite week of the year.
Perhaps it is owing to all those years spent growing up back east. Here, where I now have managed to escape all that snow, a White Christmas is out of the question, so no one gives it any thought. The official start of Christmas, a la California, begins before the crack of dawn on Black Friday. Consequently, if you were to take a noontime break from your festivities on Christmas day to drive into town, you might encounter a few already-stripped Christmas trees unceremoniously discarded by the roadside, awaiting the next day's trash pickup.
Back east, though, where the possibility of a White Christmas loomed much larger, it actually looked like Christmas, even on the day after. Or the week after. Actually, make that the entire month afterwards. Back in New York, Christmas actually had an afterglow.
That was the week when, freed from the constraints of school teachers and homework assignments, grade school children could make forts and tunnels out of the snow in preparation for the inevitable snowball fight. When it got too cold, they could shed their snow-soaked winter togs and curl up with a cup of hot chocolate and imagine far-off worlds while playing with their new toys.
It was a dreamy time. And I never outgrew it. I may have developed an unhealthy distaste for the snow—adulthood's shoveling chores tend to sour one on the prospect of more snow—but I haven't forgotten the magical week when the mellowness of Christmas still lingers.
This is the week when I didn't mind not taking the week off from work, for even behind my desk, the Christmas mood permeated every task. It became my week to gear up for the new year—set out plans in the new year's calendar, organize folders, connect with coworkers and associates I hadn't had time to reach out to during the rest of the year's hectic blur.
Even though I no longer work away from home, it was easy to carry that habit with me. The serenity that seems to radiate from the Christmas just past helps to center the mind and open it to anticipate big things for the year ahead—stuff on which anyone could thrive.
In that atmosphere, I pull that east coast Christmas cocoon just a bit closer to me. Even though I no longer am surrounded by the snow—the excuse the other side of the country uses to continue its holiday celebration—I still play those Christmas carols. I still enjoy that warm cup of mulled cider. I curl up with one of the books my thoughtful husband and daughter surprised me with, just the day before. And I imagine the possibilities for the upcoming year.
It occurred to me the other day that perhaps that very mood of this favorite week of the year is why I chose a certain song as my favorite Christmas carol, year after year. Its classic English beauty—music set by composer Gustav Holst, with lyrics by poet Christina Rossetti—is augmented by its presentation by the Gloucester Cathedral Choir.
If you don't mind savoring another Christmas carol—despite it being the day afterwards—please join me in enjoying In the Bleak Midwinter and see if it doesn't recapture that old-fashioned lingering Christmas mood for you, too.
A note, if you are reading this post via email (rather than on the Internet): If the embedded video does not show up for you, you may view the choir singing by clicking here.