This blog was created as the start to a two-month long project, stemming from November 1st, 2010 until January 1st, 2011. In my attempt to remember just why the holidays can be such a special time of year, I came up with a challenge for myself to perform one act of unexplained kindness per day until the holiday season was over. Displayed below is the original post which started it all, explaining my intentions and what I hope to achieve during the holiday season.
It’s officially November, officially cold, and officially time to shift our focus from weekends at the lake to weekends quarantined indoors due to 6 feet of snowfall.
For me, this time of year has always brought a bit of excitement with it. The Halloween costumes have all been put away…there’s no longer a month-long build-up to a holiday worshiped by kindergarteners and college freshmen. I love autumn, and I hate to see the fall months pass by so quickly, but I can’t help feel a twinge of excitement knowing what’s to come ahead: the “holiday season,” a period of two months highlighted by Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve/Day, and New Year’s Eve/Day (not to mention Black Friday). How can anyone not be overjoyed to know that turkey, stuffing, Rudolph, candy canes, and noise makers are just right around the corner?
When I was little, the holidays were my entire reason for living during those dreary winter months. Gram would start to bake endless amounts of Italian cookies. Mom would play Christmas carols to wake me up for school each morning. Dad would send me hurtling at blinding speeds down Jamestown’s biggest snow-covered hill, with only an inner tube and an overstuffed snow suit to keep me from harm. Papa would “allow” me to shovel his front walk after I begged mercilessly, and after we would watch Home Alone in the warmth of his living room…which also served as my imaginary ice rink when I believed I would become a world class figure skater at the age of 8. It’s hard to do triple lutzes when there’s a coffee table and a fireplace in your way.
And the presents…oh, the presents. What little kid doesn’t put the presents at the forefront of their minds when they are growing up? You’d make wish lists, stomach churning with anticipation that maybe, just maybe this year I might get that Fisher Price 3-In-1 Pool Table with the air hockey attachment and ping pong table? Or the Jurassic Park Compound, complete with a t-rex, combat truck, Sam Neill action figure, and a roaring dilophosaurus who spits? When presents began appearing beneath the tree, I’d arrange them neatly: square boxes with square boxes, bigger packages on the bottom, smaller ones on top, making mental notes about which ones I’d open first and which ones I’d save for last. Even now, I still get a feeling of wonderful anxiety when I recall those moments leading up to “the big day” (it’s sad to think I am referring to Christmas and not my wedding day, which is on hold until I actually have a groom to marry).
But, it was more than the presents. It was knowing you’d be seeing every member of your extended family at least three times over the next two months. It was knowing that Aunt Sandy would be making her traditional 24-Hour Salad…the one with the gooey marshmallows and luscious mandarin oranges. It was knowing that all the traditional Christmas movies would be watched every weekend, including National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and so many more. It was the knowledge that these two months meant a little something more, and allowed us all to partake in events and activities that were filled with love, joy, and friendship.
Over the past 4 years, my life has been through a series of transitions. I rerouted my career path, made a major move from NYC back home, lost two grandparents I deeply loved, rediscovered myself, and finally began to find some peace with where my life is heading. In the tumultuous amount of time that I required to do all that, I somehow lost that treasured spirit of Christmas I always had since I was a child. Thanksgivings would come and go without paying any attention to the Macy’s Parade. Thanksgiving dinner became a small gathering of just my parents and myself, with no real relish of making special dishes or desserts to tempt anyone’s palate. When snow finally fell, I didn’t gaze at it with wide-eyed wonder; instead, I groaned, threw on another sweater, and turned my electric blanket on high. I became so busy that it was okay if we didn’t get to watch every holiday special on TV…it was okay that all of our time-honored traditions weren’t worked in to our plans…friends weren’t met for Christmas lunches as often, gift exchanges were few and far between, and the desire to spread holiday cheer just wasn’t as important.
Life happened. Little things that began as cracks finally escalated to place a rift between me and the holiday season. I still love Thanksgiving and Christmas, but there’s no spark…there’s no butterfly feeling in my stomach when I think about things to do, people to see, desserts to bake. There’s no initiative to plan anything…if it happens, it happens…the mantra of the lazy. And I hate it. I detest how lackadaisical I’ve become about my favorite time of year, and it’s time to do something about it.
As I was riding in the car yesterday, I decided to play some Christmas carols (yes, I realize it was just November 1st yesterday and that I violate some cosmic laws somewhere). I needed a mental boost, and I knew Christmas music could do the trick.
iPod. Music. Genres. Christmas. Play all. Shuffle.
The first song that came up happened to feature good ol’ Bing Crosby, in all his crooning glory. The opening strains of “Silver Bells” floated into my car, and instantly I was transported to my Papa’s den, where I would spend hours listening to Christmas CDs and records. And yet, the music kept changing the walk down memory lane. Next, I was sitting in a rocking chair near the front window in my own home, watching the snowfall near a glowing street lamp on the brick road outside. Then I was transported to my living room, with smells of Mom baking wafting through the air as I sat by the fireplace with hot chocolate in hand. Finally, I saw the faces of many friends and relatives who have been an integral part of my holiday experience ever since I was a child. All this from hearing a Bing Crosby tune. I found myself questioning: whatever happened to the holidays? Why aren’t they as spectacular as I remember them to be? And most importantly: what can I do to bring them back?
I present to you, humble reader, a holiday hypothesis which takes form in the shape of this blog. What would happen if I purposefully tried to do something good for someone every day for the next two months??? What would happen if I made it a point to take time away from thinking about my own life, problems, and worries and placed more emphasis on making others feel wanted, appreciated, and loved? What would happen if I purposefully tried to instill a little Christmas spirit in the people who walk in and out of my life daily? How would it affect them? How would it affect me?
The mere thought of doing this suddenly ignited something in the pit of my stomach. Excitement. Anticipation. The thought that I was losing my mind. Would I be able to keep this up, everyday, for the next two months? Would it make any difference? Would I just get frustrated with my attempts and eventually call off the whole project? Would it rekindle my love for the holiday season?
A small voice silenced all of my doubts.
Let’s see what happens….why the hell not?!?
So, here I am, after spending nearly 4 hours editing and and organizing a blog I have never used before, at the start line to a project that has no certain outcome. Every day, I will attempt to do something good/kind/Christmas-y for friends, strangers, students, convenience store employees, Wal-Mart customers, Facebook friends, and anyone I come into contact with. One good thing per day, every day, up until New Year’s Day. Little things…big things…anything that makes me purposefully go out of my way to do something for someone other than myself.
And what defines these “good things”? (I like to call them “Random Acts of Christmas”…you can check out my cumulative list here). Well, just about anything, really…with some stipulations…
- Baking (I will do this a ton for people)
- Calling up old friends
- Just don’t call complete strangers here…might weird them out a bit
- Allowing that poor person to drive out of CVS when the 20 other cars in line behind the stop light won’t
- Telling strangers you like their hair…or shoes…or, if need be, piercings
- Encouraging a friend who needs a kind word
- Not slapping that salesperson who refuses to leave you alone in Bath and Body Works
- Saving parking spots for elderly people
- Unless it’s 30 degrees or colder outside…then they’re all fair game
- Buy lunch at McDonald’s drive through, and pay for the person behind you
- Reach out to someone in need…even if it’s the need for deodorant
- Buy flowers for a friend
- Yes, fake flowers count
- Pull off to help someone at the side of the road
- The list goes on…
The great thing about these RACs (Random Acts of Christmas) is that they can always be changing, modifying, growing. I will personally try to post and keep a cumulative list of the things I have tried to do…whether they are funny, serious, sentimental, or even begrudgingly done. I know I’ll have my days where all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a pint of Hagden Dazs, Peanut Butter Oreos, and Grey’s Anatomy DVDs, but that’s why this is a project…a challenge. Something to keep working on.
I’ll even open up possible RACs to you, my readers, if any choose to engage in my quest. If you have ideas, please send them, no matter how wacky they are. The Christmas-ier, the better.
Already, I find a holiday excitement starting that hasn’t been present with me in years. So far, this project is 100% worthwhile. I hope that it can help bring back that holiday spirit to not only me, but for anyone out there that needs a Christmas overhaul. Happy Holidays!