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The Mother Who Sucked at Christmas

Christmas Decorations at the Mall, Ottawa, November 2014
Christmas Decorations at the Mall, Ottawa, November 2014

“No, Mark. You can’t open this box of LEGO. Put it back on the shelf.”

“Kāi! Kāi!”

We are at Chapters and Mark really likes the LEGO and Duplo sets featuring planes and trucks, and he is determinated: “Kāi, Kāi!” he says in Chinese—because “kāi” is easier to say than “open”? The mysterious brain of multicultural kids!

“Mark… I may have the solution to your problem,” I say, grabbing a book from the “Christmas selection” shelf. “Let me tell you about Santa Claus…”

But Mark doesn’t care about the Santa book I’m holding and the great speech I had prepared. Hopefully I will have more success with the heart-to-heart mother-to-son conversation we will have one day about where babies come from.

There, I have just added an item to my never-ending “mother worries list”.

This year, I am terrified by the prospect of screwing up Christmas.

The evening we were scrambling to find a few accessories for Mark’s Halloween costume, there wasn’t much left since employees were already busy stocking Christmas-related merchandises. “Already?” I commented, surprised. It wasn’t even November yet!

Earlier this week, most stores started to play that syrupy background music about Santa, Christmas and Rudolph. There are shelves and shelves of chocolate boxes, Advent calendars and toys in every store, and large Christmas trees in malls.

This time of the year is coming, whether I like it or not. I can’t close my eyes and pretend it’s not there—this is the the most important holiday of the year in North America, in terms of marketing at least.

What kind of person doesn’t feel cheerful when the holiday season is around the corner?

That was me, raising my hand.

I’m not a huge fan of Christmas. I loved it as a kid, of course, but I as an adult, I don’t really celebrate. And of course, Feng didn’t grow up with Christmas traditions. “We will do Christmas better when we have a kid,” we had always said.

Well, we have that kid now, the ultimate Christmas-celebrating motivation. But the holiday season scares me more than ever.

I don’t remember believing in Santa Claus, but I recalled very clearly the day when, at the age of five, I told me grand-mother: “I know Santa isn’t real, you know. But please, don’t tell mom and dad, they aren’t ready for the truth.”

Yet, my childhood Christmas holidays were pretty awesome. It was all about family gatherings, eating, celebrating, getting annoyed with each other. Christmas wasn’t Christmas if my grand-mother wasn’t threatening to go on a cooking strike, if my aunt wasn’t buying tons of food and expecting other to cook it for her, if my dad wasn’t misplacing the presents, if my cousins weren’t fighting about the latest gizmos, if my grand-father wasn’t giving his “back in my days we were happy to have rocks and maybe one marble as a gift” speech (blatant lie, by the way, his family was well off).

But here, in Canada, I don’t have my loud, annoying and loving family around. It’s just the three of us, Feng, Mark and I. And as the designated Westerner of the family, devising Christmas traditions is my job.

Except that I don’t want to be in charge. At Christmastime, I want to be a little girl again. Oh, I’m happy to help out, but I want someone else to do the magic.

It’s hard to “create” a Christmas spirit. I don’t know where to start. Certainly not with the religious aspect of the holiday, considering we are atheist. I would gladly incorporate Jesus into my yet-to-be-created traditions, but I know more about Jesús, the clerk at the Latino grocery store, than baby Jesus.

We aren’t very materialistic and Mark doesn’t care that much about toys yet. He has a few he really plays with (Duplo are the latest thing) but he doesn’t throw tantrums asking for more.

The main problem is that I see Christmas as a big family reunion, and I’m having a hard time with the fact that we are just a family of three. Around this time of the year, I wish the house was full of kids—ahem… for a day or two, that is, this is why I don’t have twenty kids of my own already.

I have to come up with a plan. Else… we will take Saint Mark and his passion for worship places to visit churches around Ottawa!

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