The soldier Nutcrackers wear iPods. The association of Nutcrackers with epaulets and Christmas is strong but how many people see the ballet ("The Nutcracker") or just see decorations like these (at the Austin Apple Store hence the iPods) and think 'Christmas.'
For a lot of years now, over a decade probably, we have mostly spent the Christmas holiday in Austin. Usually in the company of our parents who have been aging apace. My mom didn't make Christmas 2002 and so this six Christmases with just Dad and the in-laws. And I've got to say my mom loved Christmas. She'd wear Christmas socks, sweatshirt and earrings. All at once. She loved big family meals. The last Christmas she was alive she was pretty festive about it even though she was in the hospital, I think, right before Christmas Day. There are no little kids around here. The little kids in our immediate family are up in Colorado.
I usually decorate a little inside the house even if we aren't having a party. (It's a good thing we didn't plan a party. Our front yard and driveway is a war zone from the water works.)
This year I can't bring myself to decorate. The outside decorations are sold and the yard wouldn't accommodate at the moment. We never had a tree really but I would put out decor, light up a glass table, put presents on it. I have spread the cards that have arrived around in the front room but they don't really look much like Christmas. Most of them are pictures of families.
When I was a kid Christmas was about Baby Jesus, sure, but also about getting something you wanted and some surprises. We buy what we want these days and our wants are mostly unfulfilled by shopping anyway. When I was a kid, we loved decorating the tree with all these ornaments we used every year and then wrapping stuff for others to surprise them and examining and shaking the packages addressed to us. We can't surprise anyone any more. My dad gives money and FFP's parents, too. We do all their shopping of that sort anyway.
No amount of money or electronic gear can make my dad's back feel better or make me feel better about him staying in today and asking me to bring him stamps, money and his shirts from the laundry. We have parties to attend but they feel a little like burdens. Maybe that's my toothache talking (I mean all this festive ditch digging in my front yard and a possible root canal, too?), but I'm just saying.
We will pass the holiday without noticing much festivity, I guess. No one will get an iPod in this family. There will be a few bright greetings in the mail and we are going to a party at a neighbor's house that will be decorated to beat the band. They have a little miniature village that takes up most of a room, a Nutcracker collection although none wear iPods. Maybe along the way I'll don my gay apparel (my one red sweater or red blazer) and I'll feel all cheery and bright and it won't all seem as stupid as a nutcracker with an iPod. Maybe my annual pilgrimage to see "The Nutcracker" will actually spark a holiday feeling. Even if the weather outside is still unconvincingly winter I can watch the Snow Queen and think, yeah, Christmas!