Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Expectations and Christmas

by Janis Patterson
It’s the holiday season again – gulp! – and we’re all running around like mad trying to fulfill all our individual family traditions and other obligations. Gifts and food and guests and cards… sometimes it seems overwhelming.

But in spite of overspending and overeating, it is a magical time of year. Those of us who are religious have the extra pleasure of celebrating our faith. Those who are not religious simply enjoy the energy and the spirit of the season. Just about everyone, though, wishes the spirit of the season could last all year long.

Stay with me – this does have something to do with writing.

Mention Christmas to anyone – Christian, Jew, Wiccan, agnostic, any flavor of belief – and I’ll bet money the first reaction that snaps into most everybody’s mind is an impression of evergreens and countryside and holly, all perfectly frosted with a glistening blanket of snow… in other words, all the traditional icons of Christmastide. It makes no difference if someone lives in the desert or a city high-rise, the first image most people conjure of Christmastime is heavily influenced by the pictures of Currer and Ives. Even if we’ve never seen such a Christmas in our life, that image is one of our cultural expectations of Christmas.

I grew up and live in Texas, where – in my part of the state, at least - we almost never get white Christmases. A couple of years ago, though, I went to join The Husband in Germany for the holidays. There were evergreens artistically frosted with snow. Holly bristled with red berries. The city abounded with flags and banners proclaiming “Merry Christmas!” It was like walking into a Hallmark Christmas card with every expected Christmas image right in place.

And that’s the link. Expectation. We expect romance novels to end happily. We expect mystery novels to end with justice (not necessarily the law) being served. We expect the good guys to win in genre fiction. That’s one of the joys of popular fiction – even though we don’t know how it’s going to get there, we know how it’s going to end. It will fulfill our expectations.

Unfortunately, there is no such guarantee of a happy ending in real life. On the other hand, as humans we are adaptable. In spite of temporary disasters like an exploding turkey (don’t ask), gifts that are just flat wrong, the inevitable fight between warring uncles or squabbling cousins, whatever, we will remember the good parts of Christmas – and there will be good parts. Great food. A wonderful gift that you wanted but didn’t expect. The magic in a child’s eyes when they talk about Santa’s visit. The comfort of family and friends. This year’s disasters become next year’s shared anecdotes and then pass into treasured family lore to be passed down through the generations. (And if your family is like mine, they never forget anything no matter how much you might want them to!) The children grow older and the magic of Santa is replaced with the eternal magic of love and family, until it is time for them to create the magic of Santa again for their own children.

As writers we are incredibly fortunate – we don’t have to wait for Christmas. We get to create magic and fulfill expectations all year long.


Merry Christmas! May it meet your expectations, now and forever.

14 comments:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

You're so right about genre fiction. That's why I love to read and write it myself. You know romances will end happily--many don't in real life. You know justice will be served in mystery fiction--the killer will be caught. Fiction offers the reader satisfaction.

Patricia Gligor said...

Janis,
That's one of the reasons I love to read and write fiction: it meets my expectations that, by the end of the book, all loose ends will be tied up; all ducks will be in a row. If only life were like that. :)

Rose Anderson said...

A lovely contemplative post, Janis. Happy holidays to you and yours.

Kaye George said...

Have a great holiday, from a Texas-ex!

Janni Nell said...

Thank you for reminding me of the great privilege it is to create magic all year long. It's so easy to forget that when there are looming deadlines etc.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a magic 2014.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Beautifully said, Janis, and so true of writers. We can create magical moments that will hopefully last for generations to come.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Beautifully said, Janis, and so true of writers. We can create magical moments that will hopefully last for generations to come.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Working magic with words; great thought, Janis.

Barry Knister said...

Janis--
I think what you say is thought-provoking. Like writing, Christmas occasions opportunities. It doesn't promise those opportunities will result in something perfect, beautiful, or even happy. But the opportunity, the chance is there. For me, that's what a new Christmas season and a new writing project have in common: a chance for renewal, for getting it right.

Morgan Mandel said...

Books are a wonderful escape where stuff ends up the way it should. And if it doesn't, we won't read that author again!

Morgan Mandel
http://www.morganmandel.com

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

the only thing that saddens me is those people who don't experienced the excitement and joy trying to spoil it for those of us who do. We're not supposed to say Merry Christmas anymore the belief being we may offend someone. I say it, hoping whoever will take it in the spirit i mean it. Enjoy the season, share it with those you love, your family and friends. MERRY CHRISTMAS

joanneguidoccio.com said...

Janis, Thanks for reminding us of the beauty and meaning behind this time of year. Happy holidays to you and your family.

Velda Brotherton said...

A very nice Christmas post, especially for readers and writers. Don't we as writers live with our characters to such a degree that we must absolutely must have a happy ending for them. Or at least one with hope for the future. How could we do otherwise?
Merry Christmas to everyone.

Danube Adele said...

I do love making new family memories at Xmas. The joy on the faces of my boys and the excitement in their voices is so magical.