The only month in a year when New York actually does look like from the movies, is December. When the lights go up on the smaller-than-I-imagined Christmas tree in The Rockefeller Center. Oh the lovely impression of blinding, when you look at thirty meters tall tree covered with 30,000 lights attached to 5 miles of wires. The familiar feeling of pain and anger, when somebody bumped into you again, while ice skating in Central Park (obviously you have just spent a fortune on it, and stood in an hour-long line). The impatience, when you’re trying to take a picture of one of the Bergdorf and Goodman’s windows and another bunch of tourists stops and stares, right in front of your camera. The sigh of relief, when after walking ten blocks in forty minutes, you managed to escape the crowds alive. The comforting feeling of being squeezed and pushed, when the whole Fifth Avenue shines like a mixture of gold and silver, red and green, cheesy and tacky. When the lights and decorations are covering the whole city, and the smell of piss and garbage is covered - occasionally replaced - by the smell of chocolate and coffee. And nuts from the cheap corner stall. When the noise at Bloomingdale’s begins to remind more of food market in Delhi, rather than 59th St. Yes, it is the time - the warm and cosy, family time, with the highest suicide rate within a year – The Holiday Season.
Christmas – I have always been a fan. My friends used to ask me why I would give presents, since I was never catholic; protestant until I was thirteen; and atheist ever after. I guess Christmas in the American way, has always worked better for me. At least the image of it. I pictured it as fun time of cooking and eating with Cole Porter’s songs in the background, fire place, presents under the Christmas tree, smell of cinnamon, all that cute, warm-colored bla bla bla. Here, Christmas is more an idea of celebrating free time with family and friends, over food and gifts, rather than anything else. Nobody pretends it has anything to do with the religion anymore. It’s a secular tradition. Even some Jews have Christmas trees in New York, and don’t need excuses for it. (Btw. Did you know, that there are more Jews in New York, than there are in Israel?)
At this point, you’re probably thinking I could have had warm colors and smell of cinnamon back at home too. Well…
It had all begun about the church – me teenaged raging against the hypocrisy; him – my father mumbling about the religion. There was something wrong about going to the Church twice a year (Christmas and Easter). You either believe and go. Or don’t believe and don’t go. It’s simple. Pick a side and stick to it. I didn’t have to say it twice to the pastor, who every year managed to sneak some nasty comments about homosexuals into his Christmas preach. The fight continues. The next stop - tradition. Wrong answer buddy - I stood there with cynicism painted all over my face – because I care so much? Point three – The family. It had always nailed it. I learned quite early that Santa Claus was my very pissed off Mother, trying to make decent Christmas for us, since my father didn’t give a shit. She was trying to do her best, but for a long time couldn’t save us from going to my father’s mother house (I refuse(d) to be considered a part of that side of a clan) and listening to my uncles offending anyone who wasn’t white and broke over the Christmas dinner. And my favorite – the annual choice between Home Alone and Home Alone part II on TV. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, and when I did, then came several hours at my Grandparents house. It was never idyllic, but it was just six of us, and my Grandfather always treated us with sweets and my Grandmother had table decorated beautifully. The only thing that always bugged me was why on earth, every year, did my brother get the supply of socks and underwear as one of the gifts.
My Grandfather passed away two years ago and I miss him dearly, and Christmas, as much as I don’t appreciate it – won’t be the same without him.
To survive it all we had to learn how to drink. And by us I mean me and my friends. We started a little traditions of our own. Like meeting in the local bars, right after we escaped evening dinners. We had many great Christmas Holidays simply thanks to being wasted. Rolling in the snow; kissing in the block’s cellars; smoking cigarettes while sitting on a windowsill, looking at our town from 6th floor; giving each other 10$ gifts to because we couldn’t afford to spend more (can we now ?)
I’m not driving home for Christmas ; I don’t want to let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…Last Christmas I didn’t give you my heart, so the very next day you could give it away and All I want for Christmas isn’t you, but I could use a new mp3 player?
Last year I decided to ignore Christmas completely. Just to prove to myself that I could.
Things have changed over the past two years, and even though I still obviously don’t adore Christmas, this year I think, I am willing to give it a chance. I am looking forward to come home and drink a cup of hot wine with spices, (or two, or ten ?) with my Mum, fight with my little brother over the TV remote, and see all those beautiful familiar faces of friends. Sometimes friends are more than family, because they are family that you choose.
I’ll try to have myself a merry little Christmas now