Hollywood has lied to us. Yes, I know, not exactly news. But it's Christmas. It should be all romantic and beautiful, there should be comedy mishaps (possibly involving abandoned children and extreme fire danger).
There should be romantic misunderstandings with strangers which resolve into happy endings, there should be a chance to rescue an entire building full of financial terrorists under the efficient Germanic leadership of Alan Rickman, I should be learning a heartwarming lesson of reconciliation with someone, and most of all: my unrequited love should be chasing me into the street to profess his secret feelings for me under a flurry of sparkling snow (or, in our case, warm and dirty rain). Lies, all lies. Not a single one of these things has happened to me. Which is probably not a bad thing in the case of the terrorists, but I'll take comedy mishaps. (On a side note - Alan Rickman appears quite a lot in the context of Christmas. Coincidence? And also, that bit in Love Actually with the "you're perfect" sign, did anyone else find that kind of ...creepy? But I digress.)
Against the backdrop of comedy, action and romance that we should be experiencing on every corner, the ordinariness of checking out of the supermarket with a basket of dinner ingredients for the staycation which is all you can afford, or trying to fight the crowds in Sephora just to buy a stocking stuffer, or drinking moscato at your desk because that's the only non-beer drink left in the office fridge, seems to not be ....I don't know, magic enough. Maybe it's because New York is the city of dreams, and everything is supposed to be so heightened, and sometimes, real life just doesn't match up. Maybe it's just unrealistic expectations, and no-one wants to admit that sometimes it's all just a bit underwhelming.
Luckily, as an Australian, we always had a weird sense of Christmas being a bit off. When it's 35 degrees Celsius outside and you're spraying your windows with fake snow and trying not to faint while you make steamed plum pudding, you know there's something amiss. You battle through with the determination to make it a PROPER Christmas no matter what. Kind of like Bruce Willis.
As a child, without the confines of snow or rain or cold, we were basically terrors at Christmas. While the adults all went next door and drank (in retrospect who can blame them), my cousins and I would run riot and make papier mache people and put them on the road to see if cars would stop, or ring the local radio station and inform them that our grandfather was having a party and everyone was invited (true stories....we got in big trouble for the papier mache man, or "Mr Balloon" as he was officially called. He probably diverted quite a few emergency resources.). One of my cousins would burn any presents he didn't like and we'd all guess what colour the flames would be.
More recently, my cousin's little daughter once asked, in the humid heat of tropical Queensland, Australia: "Mummy, when is it going to snow? It's supposed to snow at Christmas." Her mother of course told her that wasn't the case in Australia, and the kid rolled her eyes and said, "Um, it always snows at Christmas mum, I saw it on TV." A child after my own heart.
So, to get in the mood of a slightly off Christmas, now on Christmas Eve's Eve I'm watching the Festivus episode of Seinfeld yet again, a FESTIVUS FOR THE REST OF US! A boozy celebration of disappointment, rage, and aluminium tent poles. My kind of holiday!
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to the best thing about Christmas - old and wonderful friends gathering from afar. This year, there will only be three of us in the same place, but that's still a reminder of ....<insert heartwarming lesson here>. As I wait for my friend of 17 years (!) and many adventures together to arrive from London, I am glad there's still a little something left in Christmas time after all. Maybe she can remind me that it doesn't matter if the unrequited love doesn't run into the street, because we've had 18 Christmases as friends and hopefully many more to come. Sometimes friends are just the best. And that's the one thing Hollywood hasn't lied about.