From the time I was about 12 years old, I asked for science fiction, fantasy, and roleplaying game books for Christmas. On days when it was too blustery and cold to go outside, it was lovely to sit inside and drink cocoa while curled up with a book.
In high school and college, Christmas break was when my friends and I got together and played marathon sessions of Dungeons and Dragons. We’d meet at someone’s house and play until midnight, sleep over, and begin again the next morning. This was punctuated with trips outside to play in the snow. We all had jobs during the summer, so Christmas time was when we got to cut loose and indulge our gamer habits.
The last three months of the year seem ready-made for flights of fantasy. The world changes. Leaves fall, then snow. The air changes, and everything just feels different. There’s the whole death-leading-to-rebirth thing going on through the winter. We get Halloween to kick that off, where we get to dress up in costumes, play act at being someone or something else, and indulge in horror movie.
Then December comes, and regardless of what religious or secular traditions to follow, the whole month becomes about fantasy. There’s that transformation aspect, again. We listen to music we don’t hear the rest of the year. We watch movies and TV shows that we put away for this special time. We eat foods we don’t get the rest of the year. We put up decorations to change the appearance and the mood of our homes and our public spaces.
We also believe that the world can be different, even for a little while. We believe, or at least want to believe, that human beings can live together in peace. We experience unprecedented levels of hope and, unfortunately, the deep depression that comes along with the hard realities that these are just dreams, the juxtaposition of the fantasy against the truth that life can be hard, cold, cruel and lonely.
There’s a magical socialist toymaker (come on, the red suit, and he gives to everyone, equally, and for free?), and flying reindeer, and elves, and talking snowmen. Dickens gave us a ghost story. My atheist friends will make cracks about the fantasy of virgin births and messiahs, and I’ll just smile and say “God Bless Us, Every One!”
That’s why I love Christmas. I need Christmas. I need the escapism.
When the New Year rolls around, the magic is behind us, and we’re a little burned out on the fantasy. It’s time to head back into reality, with new resolutions and a renewed sense of purpose. We’ve exhausted ourselves with the running around and the familial obligations and the crowds in the stores, but hopefully we’ve also recharged our creative batteries by delving into possibilities.