Let’s get the religious argument out of the way right off the kicker. I’m not here to say that Groundhog Day is more important than the celebration of Christ’s birth. (Though I might argue that Christmas these days is about more than the celebration of said birth. But today’s blog post isn’t about that, and it would take me too long to get into it at the moment . . .) No–for my current purposes, I’m just looking at the expectations we all have of any particular day. When I get up on a work day, I have an idea of how that day will go. Breakfast, writing, eight hours of work, home to breathe for a bit, then help kids with homework, make and eat dinner, catch a bit of a movie at night, and off to bed to repeat it all the next day. Typically I’m right.
I have different expectations from weekends. I want to get more done, have more fun–it all depends on the weekend day in question. Whatever it is, I have an idea of what the day is supposed to “be like” before it happens. My feeling on that day then swings on how closely it held up to expectations. Did I get everything done I wanted to? Did I have a good time? Great time? That sort of thing. An average weekend day might be an awesome work day–depending on what I thought I’d get out of it.
Holidays have some expectations that can reach staggering heights, and none are worse offenders at this than Christmas (for me, at least). Think about it–it’s something we start building up to right around Thanksgiving, although my son reminded me yesterday that the buildup actually starts around December 26th. (Seriously. It’s the day after Christmas, and he was already plotting what he was going to ask for next year.) Other holidays have lower expectations. Thanksgiving (for me) is all about eating too much food and then watching football and being a bum. I’ve got tons of practice doing that, and so my Thanksgivings are typically awesome days. Fourth of July? Blow stuff up and eat hamburgers. Easy peasy. Halloween? The expectations are rising, but even still, it all boils down to getting and eating candy. Valentines Day can be a minefield of expectations, but it hasn’t been for me. Denisa and I aren’t like that.
But then there’s Christmas.
Take a minute and think about everything this day is supposed to be. You’ve got to provide a stunning, childhood defining day for your children, all the while making sure they don’t forget the “real meaning of Christmas” and turn into present-hungry piranhas. You need to figure out good, thoughtful gifts for a slew of family. You need to write Christmas cards and send them off to everybody and their brother (or else face their wrath, it sounds like). You need to reach out to all your close loved ones and make sure they feel loved, and you need to prep and consume a real humdinger of a dinner. Oh yeah–and then there’s Christmas parties that must be awesome, and a Christmas Eve that needs to be out of the park, too. And don’t forget decorations and all the rest of that shopping. And wrapping wrapping wrapping. And make sure to see all the great Christmas movies. And–and–and–
It’s a day with huge expectations. (I realize it might not be for you. Please don’t rub it in.)
What I’m trying to say is that to even meet those expectations, you need to have a home run. To exceed them? Good luck. Christmas is the summer blockbuster of holidays. It’s the day that everybody expects to be awesome, and if it’s just excellent or really cool, then the disappointment can feel sharp.
This is not to say my Christmas was bad this year. I had a great Christmas. Real blast. But then I compare it to today. I’m taking the day off, and so my expectations were slightly heightened, but not that high. And I’m going ice fishing, Denisa’s taking TRC skiing, I’m going to go to a Magic draft, and then I’m going to top the day off by watching the BYU bowl game. It’s going to be a great day (at least it has been so far . . .)
And it didn’t take me a month of prep to pull off.
Which brings me to Groundhog Day. My love for the holiday is well known, and I think one of the reasons for it is that the expectations of the day are so low. Pretty much nil. Watch the movie, eat some sweets, the end. Groundhog Day is willing to be whatever I want it to be. It can have a huge party, or not. It can have special food, or not. I never feel an ounce of guilt for having missed a special Groundhog Day treat. It is what it is.
And it’s lovely.
Maybe the lesson to be learned here is deeper. Maybe it’s about celebrating the holidays more simply, and not expecting so much out of myself or any one day in particular. But those are deeper thoughts for a deeper day.
I’ve got fun things to do. This day’s got a lot to get done, after all.
Happy day after the day after Christmas!