These days, I might seem to be in the traditional Christmas spirit. Sure, I'm doing the usual. I'm stringing lights, breaking out the Santa candles and the reindeer yard art, and crumbling up regifted fruit cakes for bird feed. But deep down, I'm yearning to be someplace MUCH closer to the equator. I'm dreaming of a sky blue Christmas, one where I can divide my time equally between the sand and the snorkel mask.
I blame my husband for this, of course. Until the man DRAGGED me off to Hawaii one year for Christmas, I was fine with the usual head cold and mistletoe holiday. I'd grown up saying things like "I couldn't live without the change in seasons" and "It must be SO SAD to not have a white Christmas." Now I know that those are just the platitudes we tell ourselves in these temperate latitudes. For me, Christmas changed forever on December 25, 1995 on a remote beach at the far end of Maui.
Some men search for the nice golf course on vacation; my husband works down the list of the top nude beaches. Given my semi-Catholic upbringing, this was one of those marital issues that had worked itself out over time, through a process of professional counseling and collective bargaining. Thus, on that Christmas day, it didn't seem odd to me that I found myself hiking down a steep cliff overlooking the Pacific toward a lovely, protected cove where about a dozen people divided themselves between snorkeling and caroling -- au natural. After a few anxious greetings of "Mele Kalikimaka" (Hawaiian for "Happy Christmas"), I joined my husband as a merry, nudie snorkeler. We snorkeled amongst the schools of yellow and blue tangs and other fish so colorful that they made the tree at Rockefeller Center look subdued. We picnicked and napped. And I'm proud to say that -- through the judicious use of sunscreen -- not a part of me glowed like a Christmas tree that night.
That Christmas went down in our marital history as the best holiday ever -- and ruined me for any Christmas thereafter that required having to wear more than shorts and a T-shirt. Similar to our annual Passover proclamation, "Next year in Jerusalem!", we end our Christmases now with "Next Year in St. John....Hawaii...Some Place With Palm Trees!"
This year, while I'm hanging garland with frozen fingers, I'll be Mele Kalikimaka dreaming...and looking forward to future tropical Christmases. Perhaps, Christmas in Australia, I've been thinking, where it's summer in December. Turkey barbeque and stories about Christmas kangaroos (a nice reindeer substitute). Since I'm pushing 50 and we now have kids in tow, I'm not so sure about a reprise of the au natural snorkel fest. Maybe me and the husband will have to leave that for our wild octogenarian days.