Spanish Stories: Feliz Navidad

“Let’s get this motherfucker started!” – 5th of primary student prior to Christmas Bingo

Every few years or so the Christmas spirit finds me and fills me with boundless holiday cheer. There is no way to predict it. It’s like getting the flu: one day you wake up feeling different and all you can really do is manage the symptoms for the duration of the sickness. Or I get the birthday/Christmas/holiday blues. I wish for a happy medium each year but its one or the other without fail.

This year the spirit bit me.

Christmas starts early here. The bones of lighting structures go up in early-November; the mall is slowly turning into a big glossy bulb, store windows laden with fake snow and holly, red and white as far as the eye can see. I am told that I can start teaching Christmas vocabulary in mid-November yet I stall for another week and start with American Thanksgiving instead. I’m not quite ready. There are hand turkeys to make!

I am a woman in her mid-30s who traces little hands for a living.

I am also the woman who is milking Christmas for all its worth. The entire 13 days of class in the month of December is filled with all matters of holiday activities: singing, crossword puzzles, word finds, Bingo, and coloring – oh my! All of which are printed and photocopied at the school store. My plans for maximum Miguel avoidance have failed. He’s there every single time I pop in. It seems my little work around only brought temporary relief. I didn’t slay the nasty troll only subdued personal exposure to his evil superpower: total and complete uselessness. There is no hack to completely ignore him. He actually complimented me the last time I was there. Apparently my Spanish is improving to his liking!

I am tasked with teaching the kids “Jingle Bells” and everyday we practice. Although it sounds more like “Ginger Bills” coming from their mouths, I think we have a good shot at complete memorization before winter break. Perhaps the parents will be convinced that I am teaching them something when their homes are filled with the utterly annoying chorus for the rest of the year. Looks like a case of be careful what you wish for, amirite?

Everywhere you look there are lights. Every street adorned with a hanging illuminated installation. El Corte Ingles in Cuatro Caminos is covered with electric snowflakes pulsating and glimmering like fireworks all over the buildings façade. There is a giant Papa Noel downtown and even more in Maria Pita Square. I am going to check it out tonight. Apparently, the display is bordering on tacky, which sounds perfect to me! I’m just a tourist really. There is no pressure to be cool and aloof in the face of millions of tiny light bulbs in various holiday scenes. I can marvel guilt-free.

I also don’t have to worry about what to wear or what to bring to Christmas parties because I am going to Portugal for the break and don’t have any good friends here. I can roam alone and do all the cheesy holiday things solo. No one to mock or make fun of my bubbling Christmas cheer this year. No family to ask me what my plans are. No friends enabling me to drink too much or god forbid drag me to anther claustrophobic night at The Bends. My sole responsibility is to enjoy myself. No running around buying last minute gifts because shipping rates are insanely high. No ugly sweaters. No Secret Santa. I’ve always want to take a real vacation over winter break and now, I finally am able to.

Now, I miss my family and friends like crazy, but I don’t miss the oppressive feeling of obligation that tinges the edges of this time of year. Perhaps I can learn to take this freeing feeing with me the next time the tight grip of holiday anxiety presents itself, if at all. Next year, I’m shooting for “if at all.” Speaking of next year, I have no idea where I’ll be. A jolt of excitement zings through me at the notion. I have no plans. I have nowhere I have to be. The future is entirely blank. Except for Fatty Catty. Okay, the future is mostly blank with a fluffy tuxedo cat sat in the middle. And that sounds splendid!

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