Ah, it’s that time of year again. It’s the middle of December and I’m well into the thick of my personal holiday season, which typically starts after Thanksgiving but has been known to start much earlier in November.
In years past I’ve written about how geeks put their own personal stamp on Christmas – think Star Wars-themed trees and the like. But this year – in fact, just today – I realized something with a start. I don’t put my own geek spin on Christmas. Christmas is something I geek out about.
To some who know me, that might seem odd, because I’m not religious in the slightest and never have been. I’d say 70% of the time spent in churches throughout my life was actually due to music gigs, not any sort of worship. But Christmas – a rather secularized version – was big in my house growing up, and I’ve chosen to embrace those traditions as an adult – and then some.
See, even as a kid I was fascinated with the history of Christmas – how it’s a mangled combination of so many cultures and traditions. The winter is long and cold, and I love how a set of fairy lights can hold that gloom at bay; that’s always been the magic of a winter celebration. That at the peak of the harshest time of year, we’re meant to think of others, to pull together, to believe in magic. That’s enough to give me the warm fuzzies.
So, that’s the general mindset with which I approach the season. Now let’s get down to how I actually get my geek on.
Biggest Tree You Can Find, Maybe Painted Pink
First we’ll start with the basics. Like many probably are, I’m a sucker for Christmas traditions I grew up with. And many of them are honestly pretty commercial.
Some of these are just borne of habit – like Christmas movies. I have a handful of staples. White Christmas must always make its way in there somehow. It used to be the wrapping-presents-on-Christmas-Eve movie, but as an adult I don’t really do presents, so it’s gotten shuffled to “some other random time.” A few years back I started watching The Thin Man while I put up the tree (it’s set at Christmas), so now that’s become a tradition, preferably with eggnog. Lethal Weapon and Die Hard have to fit in at some point, and Home Alone gets watched a few times. Plus the standards you probably already know.
A huge one from my childhood is A Charlie Brown Christmas, so I have some Peanuts-related Christmas decorations. I don’t have a tabletop tree, surprisingly, but I’ll get one eventually.
Growing up in Florida, Disney worked its way into every facet of my life, and Christmas is no exception. I have a few Disney-themed ornaments (I’ve pared down as an adult), but every year I watch videos with Christmas tree monorail sets and drool. Someday there will be either a Monorail or a Hogwarts Express under my tree, I’m certain.
Back when I was in college and participating in a Secret Santa gift exchange, I was given the book It’s a Wonderful Christmas: the Best of the Holidays 1940-1965. Later, when I became interested in midcentury pop culture and architecture, this book became one of my favorites. It’s a fun little book, fluffy, but full of fascinating tidbits about the history of how many of our modern Christmas traditions developed. In keeping with my midcentury love, much of my Christmas decorating has a decidedly retro bent. For years I would only use C9 opaque Christmas lights in non-tree decorating, and I’ve never met a cutesy Santa I didn’t like.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to spend part of November in Europe. It was right at the beginning of the holiday season, and I was exposed firsthand to traditions I’d barely heard of before – Krampus and Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet (that last one has more than a bit of culture shock). Since I had no clue what a random extra from Where the Wild Things Are was doing wandering in Berlin, I started researching… which led to more reasearching… you know how it goes. I might not have been raised in Germany, but I came away from that trip with a fondness for Krampus, which is why this is currently headed my way.
So there you have it – a tiny peek into some of my Christmas traditions. In general I don’t think of myself as particularly over-the-top; each of my holiday traditions has either personal or historical meaning, but then that’s true of most people. But I suppose most people don’t launch into the historical meaning of their tree topper, or the origins of the carol that’s playing in the department store, or defend the commercialization of Christmas as a tradition started in the 1800s. If being a geek means you’re particularly enthusiastic and passionate about the subject matter, well, I’m definitely a (secular) Christmas geek.
What about you? Are you a Christmas geek, or are the holidays merely the backdrop with which to display your geeky passions? Or do they mean something else for you entirely? Share your thoughts with us!