I knew I had a problem last March when I was looking for something to watch on Netflix and settled into a movie with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 25 percent simply because it was about Christmas. Around June, I’d started to feel constantly fidgety, looking for a reason — any reason — to make shortbread. On Sept. 1, I hummed loudly when I turned the page on our Boston terrier calendar and hurried to T.J. Maxx to see whether they had any red and green decorations out yet.
So, that’s it. I’ve become a year-round Christmas person. I don’t know if the pandemic did it to me or what, but I basically only want it to be December all the time.
This sudden change is a little more interesting if you’re aware of how carefully I used to manage Christmas. Every year, the tree went up Dec. 1 and it came promptly down Dec. 26. Christmas baking began in earnest around the third week of December. I wouldn’t let myself watch When Harry Met Sally until we were well into the season and A Christmas Story? Forget it, that was reserved for Dec. 25.
When we finally made it to that sacred day, after the presents were opened and the food was eaten, I was already looking around to see what I could gather up. Wrapping paper, obviously, was ushered away with almost ferocious efficiency. The turkey started becoming broth within 12 hours. By 9 a.m. on the 26th, I had my holiest T-shirt and ugliest bootcut yoga pants on because, honey, I was ready to work. Within a few hours, I had everything tucked and stacked away: every festive dish cloth, every lightbulb, every surface dusted and vacuumed to get rid of — blech — ornament glitter.
If you don’t believe me, you can check the archives of this column. It repeatedly documents the desperation I felt to just get this thing over with.
But now, my god. In the past year, I’ve gone into the Christmas closet (yep, I have one now) every few months just to breathe in its scent. I don’t know how it smells like vanilla and pine, but somehow it does. Is it the collective scent of boxed joy that I’m smelling?
I’ve also started scouring our subdivision for other early-Christmas people. Unfortunately, right now it’s just pumpkins, haybales and a shocking series of zombie babies clawing their way out of the grass at the Bartley house. But the minute one candle goes on in one window, I’m likewise cracking Christmas open over here.
I know I need to be careful though. The great thing about Christmas is you spend a whole year not thinking about it so when you do unpack your decorations, everything feels new and exciting. I learned the hard way by listening to too much Joan Jett that nostalgia only works right if you don’t visit it too often.
So I’ve forced myself not to actually open anything yet. Not cook anything yet. In fact, I’m slowly getting myself revved up to go on a diet just so I can go full-bore party in December.
Still, there are some things I can do early.
The fact is we need a festive welcome mat for the top step. So far, I have looked at 638 options. Candy canes, Santa, snowmen, reindeer, snowy trees, holly sprigs, snowflakes, none of them are working. I nearly pulled the trigger on a cardinal mat but then read 214 reviews and, overall, they were less than stellar, so the search continues.
I’m also putting together a recipe list. I have my eyes peeled for Cooks Illustrated’s holiday issue so if you see it at the checkout aisle, please let me know. This year, I’m planning a real extravaganza. And I noticed, did you?, they already have cranberries at the grocery.
So I will amuse myself with this Christmas-adjacent work until I get down to business for the real thing. In the meantime, if you need a pal to talk Christmas with, I’m your girl. No subject too small to mull, is my motto. And, apparently, no movie too bad.