Virtual Advent Tour 2009 - December 3

Last year I was asked by BlogHer to do a gift guide for guys. It was a bit of a last minute request and it morphed into something I didn't expect when I said that I'd do it - it morphed into what Christmas meant to me last year. You see, I haven't always had great Christmases. Most of the ones I had when I was a kid were good. They weren't extravagant but they were mostly happy simple times that involved not a lot of gifts but a lot of love, family and yes, a lot of pie.

Then I grew up and went on to university in a city that wasn't very close to home. I went home the first few years but then money started to dry up and the cost of going home for Christmas was half a month's rent that I didn't have to spare. The first year my friends banded together to buy me a train ticket home, which was really touching. (It ended up being an epic disaster in terms of people getting mad at each other for not paying each other promptly for the ticket and I got stuck in the middle of all of it but whatever, the intent was sweet.)

The next year I had Christmas dinner with a friend's family. Again, a sweet offer (and omg it was good food) but it's weird to be the odd person out. The person that doesn't belong, not to mention the female friend that is mistaken by his family for the girlfriend which adds a whole other layer of awkwardness to the whole thing. There was another where I was dating someone and spent Christmas with their family which was nice but still rather awkward. There was the year I spent Christmas mostly alone except for a Muslim friend who stopped by for Christmas dinner. It was her introduction to stuffing (a very successful introduction). Then there was the Christmas I was going to be all alone and was quite bummed about it until the Young One surprised me by staying with me for it.

The next couple of years were harder. I was in Toronto and mostly alone for the holidays. For the first one a friend came over Christmas Eve and we had a few too many drinks and I spent Christmas day camped out on my living room floor (I did not yet own a couch - I bought one the next month) nursing a horrific hangover. The year after that I was determined to make things better so I faked the joy and it was better than the last one , but still alone, alone, alone. Ditto the next year in Montreal. Those last two weren't bad Christmases, just kind of lonely ones.

My Christmases weren't horrible (ok, maybe the one where I was hungover was) but they certainly weren't joyous.

Last year, my first with Lee (aka the fake husband who was still then the fake boyfriend) and my first it Ottawa it was different. I wasn't going to be alone for Christmas. I would actually have someone to celebrate with, and not just for a day. Lee isn't a big Christmas person. In fact, if you ask his friends they'll tell you he's a right ole Grinch....or rather that he used to be. But he knew that having a "proper" Christmas was important to me so he put his cranky, grumpy, funkitude aside.

Last year I declared that Lee gave me the gift of Christmas.

It was the first Christmas I really enjoyed in about a decade. It was the first year that I ever put up my own Christmas tree. Well..aside from my Charlie Brown Christmas tree (and yes, I really was faking the joy, or at least I was trying to). Last year my Charlie Brown Christmas tree was decorated and displayed with amusement, not bitterness.

There was eggnog and homemade cookies. There were stocking hung by our fake fireplace with care. There were tickets to the Nutcracker. There was Christmas music on the radio and in stores and it didn't make bitter or snarky. In fact, I kind of liked it. There were presents under the tree to be opened on Christmas morning (I honestly couldn't tell you the last time I actually opened gifts on Christmas Day before that). There was Chinese food and midnight mass on Christmas Eve. There was a Christmas dinner with family. It was a Christmas with all the trimmings.

And I get to do it again this year. We're picking out our tree on Friday and (hopefully) decorating it. It'll go in the picture window again and we'll have to move the futon and it will block a doorway - just like last year. There will be cookies and eggnog. There will stockings hung by our fake fireplace - one for each of us including the fake cat. There's already been Christmas music played and enjoyed. We'll watch cheesy Christmas movies and cartoon specials. We're going to the Nutcracker. We'll do Chinese food and midnight mass on Christmas Eve. And on Christmas day we'll get up, stuff the turkey, open presents and lounge around in our pjs until we have to make ourselves presentable for my in-laws. We'll stuff ourselves full of turkey and all the trimmings and still find room for pie.

In short, we'll have Christmas. And like last year, I won't need to fake the joy. It will be real.