I laughed the other day when my tween asked, “How many white Christmases have you had?”
Growing up in South Florida, I never even saw snow until I went away to college in Missouri. Okay, that’s not entirely true. There was that one day in January 1977—the only day on record—when snow flurries briefly fell. Thankfully, my teacher sent us outside to experience this wonder of nature while we could because the snow was long gone by the time school let out.
It wasn’t just the tradition of a white Christmas that I missed out on as a kid.
We didn’t have a fireplace to hang our stockings from, or a two-story house so we could come running downstairs on Christmas morning. Our Christmas tree was the artificial variety, not a freshly cut pine. Winter weather called for jeans instead of shorts. I didn’t own, or need, a winter coat. Forget snowball fights and building a snowman—we were happy if the temperature was below 60 degrees on Christmas. (But if it stayed that cold for longer than a couple of days, we complained about it.)
I explained to my son that, between my childhood in Florida and living in states with mild winters once his father and I got married, I’ve never had a white Christmas. And, so far, neither has he. It took him a minute to process that, and I understood why.
When I was a kid, I daydreamed about the kind of traditional holiday experience I’d only heard in songs and seen in movies. And, while I’ve enjoyed a bunch of snowy days over the last 20 years or so of living in Virginia, the little girl in me still longs to wake up to a winter wonderland on Christmas morning.
Holiday Traditions with My Family
I’ve built other holiday traditions as an adult—first with my husband and then once we had kids—that bear little resemblance to the Christmases of my childhood. I may not have gotten my white Christmas yet, but our stockings are hung by the chimney, and my kids come running downstairs (still) on Christmas morning. And I not only have a winter coat now, I also have gloves and a hat and an ice scraper in my Jeep.
The little girl I once was could never have imagined my life now. Nor could she have imagined this year—when everything is just a little bit different because of a pandemic.
Christmas in a Pandemic
This Christmas won’t look like any previous Christmas I’ve experienced, as a child or an adult. Some of my favorite traditions—Black Friday shopping in a crowded mall, meeting friends for coffee to exchange gifts, going to movie theaters and restaurants with my kids over winter break—won’t be happening this year. And while I have occasionally daydreamed about spending Christmas on a Florida beach, this won’t be the year for that, either.
This year, I’ll be home for Christmas—much like I’ve been home most days since March 13.
The holiday shopping was done online. The movies are being watched at home. The restaurant meals have been replaced by home cooking inspired by Jamie Oliver and the New York Times cooking section. And while the little girl in me still longs for snow on Christmas morning, the mother I am now simply longs for my kids to come through this experience unscathed. My hope is that they will one day share memories with their own kids of a pandemic Christmas that was a little different from other Christmases, but still fun.
As for me, I’m focusing on the fact that while this Christmas may not hold the same traditions as past years, I’m still home for Christmas with the people I love most. I couldn’t ask for a better present than that.
Except maybe (please, Santa?) a little snow on Christmas morning.