If you’re seeking out a public relations blog, you may be disappointed in this one. (Feel free to read back issues.) But since you’re seeking out a public relations blog on Christmas Eve, you may have come to the right place, after all. For this edition has less to do with public relations than private ones. It’s more about those thoughts and emotions that, this time of year, we may keep to ourselves for noble reasons, but which are okay to express.
Let me start by saying I love Christmas. From every angle, I love Christmas. The lapsed Catholic in me loves a beautifully sung Ave Maria as much as the child in me loves a stop-motion Holly Jolly Christmas. I love a tasteful, twinkling, white light yardscape and I fully appreciate a tacky lawn mashup featuring everyone from the Grinch to the Magi. I love an Ina Garten buffet as much as I do LaVerdiere’s ribbon candy and peanut brittle. I will not miss a showing of White Christmas, Holiday Inn, or The Bishop’s Wife. (I don’t, however, wear reindeer sweaters or jewelry that lights up. Nor do I judge others who do.)
For all of this, we can thank—or blame—my mother. A child of The Great Depression (the first one), she went above and beyond at Christmastime for her family. Slinkeys and Silly String for everyone! Of course you can use them in the house, it’s Christmas! Hot chocolate and cinnamon rolls after midnight mass, Christmas tree cookies while we open presents. It’s 5 a.m.? So, what! It’s Christmas! My mother used to paraphrase Guy Lombardo, saying, “When I go, I’m taking Christmas with me!”
And for a while there, she kinda did.
In his beautiful novel, Ignorance, Milan Kundera wrote about nostalgia: “The Greek word for ‘return’ is nostos. Algos means ‘suffering.’ So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”
Believe me, I know from nostalgia.
For several Christmases after my mother died, I went through the motions of enjoying Christmas. Her own joy of Christmas was half of mine. As family Christmases migrated from my parents’ home to ours, I took great pleasure in replicating what she had done and basking in her delight—and approval. Cherished ornaments or decorations marked our Christmases through the decades. Favorite recipes stirred happy memories of countless family Christmases. With her not here to preside over Christmas, well, what was the point?
While I’ve regained my hearty embrace of Christmas, there are moments each season when I am gripped with true nostalgia, that unappeased yearning to return either to my mother’s kitchen or to when she sat in mine. So, I bake Christmas cookies, play Bing Crosby, sing Ave Maria, and believe in Santa Clause because my mother did. I carry on the traditions of our family celebrations so that her grandchildren don’t forget her and so that her great grandchildren, whom she never met, will know her just a little. Never one to shun the spotlight, my mother would appreciate knowing she’s still front and center.
I started writing on this topic because a good number of my friends lost parents this year and they’re about to experience their first Christmas without them. Nostalgia, in all its bittersweetness, is sure to find them. Burying our parents may be the natural order of things, but it’s little comfort at any time of year, least of all at Christmas.
A bit of advice that took me years to figure out: our parents gave us these traditions for just this purpose—to carry on when they’re no longer with us. So when nostalgia comes calling this Christmas, embrace it. And hand it a Christmas tree cookie.
Felicia Knight is President of Knight Vision International, LLC
Photo of Felicia Knight’s childhood Santas by Felicia Knight