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
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.