This year, while trying to prepare a decent Christmas dinner for my family, all the ghosts of special dates gone wrong, paid me a visit.
As I went through the drawers, trying to find elements to create a pretty table set-up, I remembered how much I dislike the process of trying hard to make a day feel special. Not trying to be grinchy, but life tends to be a bit cruel to me when I get excited regarding special dates.
My first find of the night, was a Christmas tablecloth. My stepmother bought it when we moved to a house in Mexico City that we spent many years planning, in the hope that by the simple act of owning a tablecloth, we might become festive. It never happened.
She tried. It’s not that we didn’t want to; it’s just that we had too many bad experiences as a family during the holiday season, and eventually we just gave up.
Take 1: December, 1991 😑
My grandfather dies one day before Christmas.
Take 2: December, 1992 🎄
As I put the final touches on the Christmas tree, a violent episode marked the last night that my mom ever slept at my house.
Take 3: December, 1993 🙏🏻
A couple of days before Christmas, me and my sister celebrated a rushed first communion, as our parents divorce was becoming official, in the only church that was available, full of cloistered nuns, and located in a street called Barranca del Muerto (Death Hill). My mom, made a glorious entrance, dressed in black from top to bottom, and everything went downhill from that moment on.
Take 4: December, 1994
Meet your new stepmother and her family. 🤦🏻♀️
Take 5, 6, 7, 8, etc, my dad decides going to bed at 10.00pm is all he wants for Christmas. 🙄
So I basically gave up on trying to have a good time, and my dad gave up on celebrating. I spent most Christmases watching movies on my own, until I was old enough to travel with friends and celebrate with their families.
But now, I have two beautiful boys that still think I know better, and to whom I’ve taught that life is full of magic, so I need to raise up my game.
Of course, the impulse to do so, only came to me a couple of hours before dinner, when it’s too late to find anything, and traffic is a mess.
For starters, I didn’t have tape to wrap the gifts — you’d be surprised of how hard it is to find tape in Cancun. In my quest to do so, I ended up going to Sanborns, a local chain that sells the sweetest cakes in the world, full of merengue, a staple for most Mexicans of my generation. I interrupted my unfruitful quest, to buy one for my boys, and headed back home tapeless.
As hard as I tried, the setup was awful — there’s as much as you can do with orange plates. My dad is no Martha Stewart either, and my sister and her fiancé were sick. Candles can solve everything, right? Yes they can, but obviously my dad didn’t have any.
So there I was, ready to give my boys and their puppy eyes, an average Christmas Eve dinner, yet for dessert, as I brought out the meringue cake, their eyes lighted up, as they asked me to do a ‘mordida’,— a Mexican birthday practice, that basically consists on biting the cake, while someone pushes your head towards it, coating your face with merengue — I realized how wrong I was: it’s not the table-setting, and it’s not the perfectly wrapped presents. The media has convinced us that’s the way to go, the same way Kodak taught us to smile in pictures.
I don’t believe in a perpetual state of happiness, but I truly believe in joy, and I am convinced that silly moments, and shared laughter are what make special occasions, special regardless of the day they happen.
So, my advice —to you and to myself — is don’t let the pressure of what others do, weigh on you, forging great expectations. Just do your thing, and enjoy the process. You’ll never now the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
Pictures by Celia D.Luna, sponsored by Aventura Mall and Citi Lounge. ❤️