Making Christmas

In the movie “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” Tim Burton elegantly weaves a story about the inhabitants of Halloween Town, a fictional land where Halloween reigns supreme, all day, every day.  The town is led by Jack Skellington, a.k.a. “The Pumpkin King,” who accidentally stumbles upon a secret portal to Christmas Town, a land filled with snow, sweets, and Santa Claus himself.

Jack is enthralled with this odd land of merriment and joy, two emotions which are counter to the ennui and melancholy his character begins the film with.  He quickly decides to remedy his growing unease by incorporating elements of Christmas Town into his world, and encourages his friends and fiends to follow suit.

In the song “Making Christmas,” the residents of Halloween Town show how they plan to present their version of Christmas, despite the fact that their vision of the holiday is slightly skewed.  Watch below:

“Making Christmas” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”

Over the weekend, I was reminded of this song as I began to contemplate my own lot during the holiday season.  I found myself feeling somewhat like Jack, the main protagonist of the story, who begins the movie dealing with a gaping emotional void and no foreseeable remedy.

Now, I am neither a skeleton nor depressed, but I have come to discover a growing emptiness in my heart around the holiday season.  I don’t love Christmas any less, mind you.  On the contrary, it still remains as my most treasured holiday and favorite time of the year…but, due to the inevitable changes of time/destiny/fate, Christmas is just not what it used to be anymore.

I’ve struggled over the past few years trying to figure out where Christmas had gone.  When and where did the magic start to fade?  Christmas used to be such a joyous and exciting time for me…I couldn’t let those feelings of love and happiness fade.  However, the harder I tried to keep my “picture perfect” Christmas alive, the further it fell from my grasp.

This past weekend, I spent a lot of time pondering why Christmas had changed for me.  Why was I having emotional doubts about a time which used to bring me so much joy?  The Grinch was my first suspect.

Nay, no prosthetic-wearin’, banana-peel-totin’ Jim Carrey abducted my Christmas.  However, I was able to discern a few reasons why my holidays may not usher in the same merriment that they used to:

1.)  This may come as a shock, but I’m no longer 5 years old.

Yes, it’s true.  I no longer ask for Jurassic Park action figures or Power Ranger costumes.  I ask for practical things, like clothing steamers and kitchen mixers.  I no longer anticipate seeing dozens of presents scattered beneath a real, live Frasier Fur tree.  And…I know.  Yes, it’s sad, but true.  I know about him.   I know that He’s in league with the Easter Bunny AND the Tooth Fairy.  I also know that my parents let me down gently when they had to “break the news.”  Christmas has never been the same since.

2.)  I’ve been a hermit and nomad for the past 4 years.

Since 2006, I have lived in four different places:  an apartment in Pennsylvania during my undergrad, New York City, my hometown, and my current location in Northwestern PA. I’ve transitioned from college, to grad school, to more college, and to student teaching, all the while never staying long enough in one place to develop any lasting traditions.  I’ve had to alter and modify any standing routines or annual activities with my family because of how busy I’ve been.

For the most part, I’ve been living on my own for the past 4 years, and I’ve become pretty good at it.  I set my own schedule, I make my own rules, and I can walk around my apartment naked.  Just me, myself, and I (and my dog, Bailey, who is always nude to begin with…that tramp).

I’ve become so good at living alone, in fact, that I’ve begun to forget what it’s like to have a family around 24/7.  When you’re a child, you always return home to a home, not a rented apartment, nor a studio space in NYC.  In the evenings, you have people to watch TV with, and in the mornings, you have someone to eat breakfast next to.  You always have companionship, even if you sequester yourself to a bedroom or home office.  You’re never not around someone.

When I apply this realization to Christmastime, I understand that living on your own takes away the excitement you would normally feel living in a house with parents and siblings.  You come home on a Friday night to watch your favorite holiday movie with Mom, Dad, and a big bowl of popcorn.  You bake cookies with Gram, and you make snowmen with Papa. Family get-togethers enhance the season, and Christmas music floods every corner of the house.  I’m fully aware that I could watch movies, bake cookies, make snowmen, and play music on my own…but it’s just not the same without family around.

3.) People can’t stay forever.

Over the past three years, I’ve lost both of my grandparents.  Gram passed in the summer of 2008, and Papa passed just last January.  In the architecture of my family, these two people were the foundation, and I know that the holidays dramatically changed when they started to deteriorate.  Gram used to be so full of energy and spunk:  one minute she’d be baking 12 different kinds of cookies, the next, she’d be swilling a Manhattan.  Papa, equally as spunky, would always unfailingly irritate her, thus causing her to weave “a tapestry of obscenities that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.”

These two always made me feel so damn special around Christmas.  Well, they made me feel special all the same (What? I was the youngest grandkid!  You do the math!), but even more so at Christmas.  I actually spent most of my December weekdays with them before I was able to stay home by myself.

Their absence has, unknowingly, created a huge void in my life.  I didn’t realize how big this void was until I found myself crying on Friday night, as I finally allowed myself to miss them for the first time in years.  It took me that long to let myself grieve.

The list went on and on….more and more reasons surfaced as to why Christmas was changing for me.  I found myself getting frustrated:  how had I let Christmas change? Why wasn’t I more careful about keeping old traditions alive?  How could I have prevented this?

Questions were met with more questions.  I reasoned with myself through millions of circle, but in the end, one truth stood alone:  Christmas had changed, it was changing…and I needed to let it change.

I fought for “My” Christmas for so long that I had become blind to the transformations taking place.  Rituals I once took part in no longer ushered in a sense of cheer.  Traditions long held had faded off into the sunset.  Seasonal habits were begrudgingly done, devoid of any enthusiasm.  And when things are done with resignation instead of passion, there needs to be a change made.

So, starting this year, I am “making Christmas, just as the citizens of Halloween Town attempted to do.  I am acknowledging that traditions/rituals/people have changed…Christmas has changed…and therefore, so must I.  I must work to embrace these changes, and create new traditions with as much worth and joy as the old ones held.  I cannot alter the course of events that have led me up to this Christmas, but I can open my mind to new avenues of opportunity and possibility.

It is a scary thing to embrace the unknown…to leave the comfort of routine and habit…but how will you ever find mirth and wonder if you’re unwilling to be courageous and take a leap of faith?

Although the lyrics of “Making Christmas” primarily describe how to make decorations of bat wings and spider legs, one mantra is repeated through the entire song, which I believe applies to my situation.

“It’s ours this time.”

At three separate moments in the piece, the characters croon this phrase, making reference to their Halloween-themed version of Christmas.  They take a completely foreign idea, incorporate it into their world, and joyfully embrace it.  They show no fear or hesitation of the unknown; instead, their eyes are all aglow with wonder and merriment.

So, by my own logic:

A Merry Christmas = Merriment + Joy + Wonder

“Making Christmas” (Embracing new ideas) = Merriment + Joy + Wonder


A Merry Christmas = Embracing New Ideas

Class dismissed!


20 responses to this post.

  1. This will be my 53rd Christmas, so I’ve been through a few Christmas tradition changes.
    Great post and cute dog.
    I’m still trying to figure out the ‘Possibly Related Post’ of Visit Namibia!


  2. Posted by fnkybee on December 20, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Great Post Auntbethany! It is sad when you come to the realization that traditions have changed. I get sad every year knowing that we will not be at my grandma’s (who is still alive she is just in a different state) for another year with the rest of the family. That tradition went to the way side after my mom passed. My family doesn’t get together like they used to, I don’t know if its just the time has changed or everyone’s lives have gotten busier, but whatever the reason it is sad..i miss those days. On a bright side since starting my family we have our own traditions now and my kids will grow up with them only for time to change yet again and they will make their own. It’s a sad thing at times but it is life and us growing with it every year. You must embrace the new and make your own christmas..just like you said.


    • It is not traditions that have changed but it is people who diverted their attentions toward different routes and typical traditional events are changing its shapes.No doubt holy celebrations are one of family joyful moments, if you have missed for a while it as in case of your mother sad demise, then now you have a family so enjoy it with same quality and enthusiastic which is its specialty Dont miss it to got to your maternal grand ma home as now she is in place of your mother so calling her on that day means you are going close to your mother which is ultimate source of pure blessing of each lucky child.
      This act would be practical lesson for your kids too, not to forget you in these days when you will be old like her.
      Take care and merry Christmas to all of your family members.


      • Our loved ones are never really that far away, as long as we can keep them close through traditions and family.

      • If they are living faraway from you then it is test of your love and grooming that how you attend them in traditional family festivals.your next generation naturally absorbs your attitude which might not expressible in their immature ages but show its strength when you reach to age group of your old mother or father. So one should enjoy festivity with sense of responsibility for close people and relations.I have already told you love , enjoyment and friendship are always flourished with long term responsible attitude without this it is flirt, part time pleasures and time pass as per momentary need of individuals.

      • I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday season, with whoever and whomever you spend it with. Happy holidays!

      • I would prefer to enjoy festival with my sick and old blood relations specially with my bed ridden mother.Her sickness has changed my life pattern and now I have become caring ,careful, responsible and dutiful daughter of my mother.Before her sickness I am quite opposite to all of it.Her sickness has given me insight that I am in deep love with my mother and that has developed special sense of responsibility of taking care of her as much as possible.That is why I always say to love someone is process of responsible attitude and you need its presentation when he/she really need it in difficult situation and here your love becomes strength of your love one or might be reason of living in despair sitaution.
        Showering of pure love acts like real painkiller but its timing should be accurate.

      • Love needs responsibility, for sure. To truly love, you must take on the responsibility of caring for another person other than yourself. True love means you rank your own needs equal with the needs of the person you love.

    • I know what you mean about being in a “different state.” That was kind of how my grandparents were, too. It was difficult for me to see them that way.

      I’m sorry about your mom. It’s especially hard to go through the holidays without them. But, it seems like you’ve certainly tried to carry on with your own traditions, even though things had to change. Hopefully you can build on the traditions you and your mom had, and incorporate them with your children!

      Have a merry Christmas!


  3. I know exactly how you feel. Christmas has always been a fun time of year for me, the lights, the cold…

    Having moved away from my family 3 years ago to study, and each of my siblings having their own lives, there is a definite sense of change and of traditions slipping away.

    A lot of the traditions we used to observe started to fade after the passing of our mum, and we all drifted off on our own life rollercoasters.
    We still see each other as often as we can, and we plan to meet up this year to exchange presents, but it’s not the same.

    Also, as a pagan, Christmas time for me has a different meaning to those in my family, and this has also impacted on traditions at Christmas.

    I guess it is all part of growing up. I look back fondly to when I would write letters to Santa, and get excited when we left food out for Santa and his reindeer before going to bed.

    For me, although Christmas has changed, it is still a time for friends and family to get together and that is still one part of it that I will always cherish. It is also an opportunity to embrace new things that may ultimately become traditions themselves.

    I hope that whatever you find yourself doing this Christmas-time, you have lots of fun, laughter and merriment. Blessed be 😀


    • When I went off to college, things definitely started to change around the holidays. I wasn’t around as often as I had been, so of course, some traditions were modified and altered. What I’ve come to realize is that the holiday really needs to be about appreciating and embracing friends and family as often as you can. This is something anyone can do, regardless of religion or beliefs.

      Have a wonderful holiday! Hope to see you around here soon!


  4. I know I said this before, but I love this movie!

    “I can walk around my apartment naked.”—There’s nothing like air drying after a shower.


  5. So are you saying Santa is not real?
    WTF … why didn’t anyone tell me?!


  6. Making Christmas, I love it. New traditions – bat wings, and sharp teeth!
    Oh wait, I know what you meant…

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I think missing them was the best you could do for yourself to help you move forward. I would love to see new traditions that honor their memory. It’s something I need to do for both of my dads that are gone as well.

    I hope you – make it yours – and get that evil gleam, I mean glow in your eyes.

    Love this movie and enjoyed the clip!


    • Oh, with my family, there’s almost always an evil gleam somewhere during the holidays. This year will be somewhat quiet for Christmas, but I plan to start using my new camera which I received yesterday!! Ya-hoo!


  7. You mean a visit to Namibia doesn’t fit in with your general theme? WordPress must be a little high on Christmas spirits. Haven’t seen you yet on the save Home Alone tip over at my site. Your movie is losing but it’s close!


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