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Dressing Up for Christmas

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I tend to be a Christmas maximalist; at least if you ask my husband, Peter, that’s what he would say.
Peter would dispense with the tree, the presents and most of the outings. He’d hang a few ornaments on a houseplant, have a nice meal and go to bed early. But Peter cares for me a lot, and he knows how much I love Christmas.
I want a live tree. If I can’t chop it down myself, I’ll haul it home from the hardware store. I want lights on the balcony and a little present for everyone. I want fancy new wrapping paper and pretty, old ornaments and a holiday setting on the table. I want to light too many candles, bake too many cookies and end up with a floor covered with ribbon and powdered sugar at the end of the night. Peter is very patient.
And I want to get dressed up.
Some of my best memories of Christmas involve my Auntie Jo. She and her family would drive up north to my grandparents on Christmas Eve with a car packed with presents and cousins and a mischievous dog. Thinking back on it now, I’m sure it was stressful for my Auntie Jo. But my memory is of the car pulling in, and Auntie Jo hugging everyone, her arms full of bags of unwrapped gifts and luggage. And this was, for me, the official start of Christmas.
Auntie Jo would head downstairs to wrap presents and, at some point, their dog, Twinkie, would make a mad dash out the door. We’d all scour the neighborhood until we found Twinkie. Then Auntie Jo would go to change her clothes and emerge more resplendent than the Christmas tree.
It was always a treat, as a child, to see what my Auntie Jo would wear at Christmas. I knew there would be glitter or sequins, and probably both. It would be the sort of outfit a person would wear only for a very special day, and seeing Auntie Jo dressed up made it a special day for me.
I understand getting dressed up is not for everyone. A tree is a lot of work. And I don’t think holiday preparations should be a burden—something on the must-do list when there are more important things to do.
But every year, I think back on my Auntie Jo, who had such a long drive and so much to do (and such a naughty dog!), and how she would step into the living room, reflecting the Christmas lights. I received a lot of nice presents, and we had a wonderful meal, but seeing my Auntie Jo dressed in her Christmas finery was always a highlight for me.
I am still lucky enough to see my Auntie Jo at Christmas. And, although I will never wear sequins as well as she did, I do my best.
Because dressing up is part of how I participate in Christmas. It helps to make this time of year memorable. When I light the candles on my mantle and string lights outside, it’s a recognition that the darkness of winter will pass. Like my Auntie Jo, I want to mark this passage of time; I want to make this day different from other days. Dressing up for Christmas reminds me that we need some extra sparkle in this darkest time of year.
And so (while I try to take it easy on Peter) I am decorating the house, and I’m lighting too many candles. And I already have a dress picked out for Christmas.

Carrie Classon
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