Twelve Days (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

So I'll be honest with you. I love the holidays. I am a holiday dork. I love pretty much any holiday. I celebrated Valentine's Day long before I ever had a Valentine, and I never gave up hope that someday a real boy would actually act like a boy in a YA novel and reveal himself to be my secret admirer on the day of hearts and flowers. (That...did not ever happen. But I enjoyed the anticipatory thrill, nonetheless.) I eat green food on Saint Patrick's Day. 

So...I love December. I decorate. I send cards. I make delicious gluten-free cookies which I eat all by my celiac self because no one believes me about how good they are. (Whatevs...suit yourselves. More cookies for me.) I read and reread my favorite holiday books. This year, I volunteered to participate in a public reading of A Christmas Carol. You might guess that I love A Christmas Carol. I confess, this time of year makes itself easy for me to love. I have always celebrated both the religious and the larger cultural aspects of Christmas and have never felt the tug between the two which both my devoutly religious and my devoutly atheist Facebook friends lament. I don't see why it has to be either/or or both/and. I have been known to accuse all of these people of being "Christmas buzzkills" and also of not really understanding the history of the holiday. Christmas is big enough to go around, and many cultural and religious moments have shaped Christmas as we celebrate it. I love that about it while also recognizing that I occupy a place of distinct holiday privilege, not only because my holiday is culturally dominant but also because I don't get grumpy about how it's celebrated or if someone wishes me a happy holidays, season's greetings, or happy holiday-that-is-not-my-holiday. 

I have no problem being merry or jolly or whatever, but the whirlwind between Thanksgiving and New Year's can be crazy, and here are two reasons I think I've been able to maintain my love of Christmas well into my adult life.

This guy, amirite?

1. "I don't have to do anything but pay taxes and die."

This was an oft-repeated refrain in my house. My dad said this whenever we kids told him he had to do something. He was kidding. Mostly. I knew I was a real grown-up when I started saying it. The thing is, I love Christmas so much that I want to protect it from becoming a mad rush from one obligation to another. I do nothing, or very little, that I don't actually want to do. I do the things I enjoy, not the things I'm supposed to do. So even though I am busier than usual, it's a merry kind of busy. One of my biggest stresses is will I finish all my Christmas books by New Year's?

2. The Twelve Days of Christmas

I heard all this stuff would cost like $150K.

I used to think December 26 was the biggest bummer of a day in the whole year, but now I love it. I even love December 25 more than I used to because it kicks off a solid twelve-day holiday for me that lasts until Epiphany on January 6, or until Christmas sort of winds itself down naturally. This came about by accident, but I wouldn't change it for the world. My husband and I live about 750 miles away from our families in South Carolina, and spending our Christmas traveling in order to be there was okay for everyone else, but not so great for us. Also, you never know what the weather's going to do this time of year, which can make travel dates unpredictable, so who knows when we'll arrive, anyway. My husband's parents are divorced, which gives us three families to visit. Every year, we end up with at least four separate Christmases: our own, and one with each set of parents and that side of the family. Trying to cram those into one day would be nuts.

Now we schedule Christmas celebrations through the New Year. Sometimes we also take a little vacation with one or two of the family groups. This year, because we have a three-month-old, we traveled to South Carolina in November when the weather was a bit more predictable, and all three sets of parents are coming to our house in the week between Christmas and New Year's because it turns out that Baby's First Christmas is a pretty big draw to get other people to travel for a change.
Speaking of Baby, she's made the Twelve Days of Christmas beautiful for me in ways beyond the practical awesomeness of not needing to celebrate with everyone on one day. Last December, we finally got all the medical interventions I needed to conceive in place, but no one, including the doctor who gave me a three-month supply of hormone supplements, expected it to work that time. But I knew that Christmas is magical, and if it would work any time, it would work then. I decorated with mistletoe and pinecones because how do I know which of those old superstitions are actually true?

I spent all last Twelve Days of Christmas wondering if I was pregnant and discovered I was on January 6. Epiphany. Baby was the last and best gift and sometimes I call her "partridge."

She's being baptized on December 28 this year.

I shut nothing out of my Christmas celebrations.

I want all the stories to be true.

I suspect that's how I became a writer.


  1. Well said, Courtney and best wishes as you baptize your daughter -- a true Christmas miracle!

  2. How lovely to celebrate your daughter's first Christmas! Congratulations!

  3. I second the best wishes on your daughter's baptism; that's wonderful! And I definitely agree with your statements about not having to choose between a "secular" holiday and a religious one. I read a news article recently about a guy who got mad because the flight attendants said "Merry Christmas" to him. They were just being polite, but he yelled at them because they weren't being "politically correct" and ended up getting thrown off the plane. I think people are too sensitive to stuff like that.


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