I’ve been wishing a “Happy Christmas Eve Eve” since long before Phoebe made it famous on Friends.
Christmas Eve Eve was a real thing in my house growing up. Christmas Day, even Christmas Eve, weren’t enough to contain what was the biggest event in our year. We started prepping for it in the springtime, planning gifts, making lists, and dreaming of the thrill. The year that my sister sewed me a life-sized doll? She started it on Valentine’s Day. Really.
We needed more than a day or even two to feel that sense of expectation. By Christmas Eve Eve, we were buzzing.
As real as the sense of expectation, though, was the sense of disappointment that descended by mid-morning on Christmas Day. Gifts opened, breakfast eaten, musical still playing on repeat for the seventy-sixth time, there was nothing more but to pick through the piles of opened gifts and wonder what came next.
What we celebrated was a holiday, not a holy day. It was an event on the calendar for giving and getting stuff that was supposed to signify the love we felt for each other in ways that our poor, emotionally grifting family couldn’t otherwise express.
I suspect it’s the same for many, but the gifts can’t fill a space intended for the manger. The food can’t fill empty hopes.
Christmas is, was and always will be a holy day if it is anything. We need to celebrate it as such or not at all.
So, no, a day or even two can’t contain the biggest event in history. So, I’ll go ahead and wish a Happy Christmas Eve Eve to everyone today, but with expectation of a different sort—expectation of love that doesn’t need gifts to prove its worth, expectation of joy that doesn’t end when the wrapping paper’s off, expectation of a Christ Child who will come again to heal us all.