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It's the most wonderful time of the year. 

I remember conversing with my mom about Christmas sometime back when I was a newly minted parent. She was imparting to me that holiday's dark secret, kept by all parents alike: Christmas is hard work for parents. This should have been obvious, of course. Though we all talk about the magic of the season like it's a seasonal trait, the way snow belongs to winter and rain belongs to April, in reality it's more like Santa Claus—something that must be made, or at least brought out. The lights don't string themselves, the cookies don't bake themselves, the gifts don't suddenly appear, perfectly thought out and wrapped, ready for Christmas morning.

My parents have always made the magic of Christmas something vibrant and tangible. Traditional foods, decorations, songs, and activities elicit an almost Pavlovian response of Christmas cheer. But making all of that happen is truly hard work, and now that I'm one of them, a parent, that is, I'm fully aware of just how much work. How much back-breaking, spirit crushing work it sometimes is to make getting a tree in cold slushy weather fun, or to find joy in wrapping gifts for the child throwing an unrelated tantrum upstairs, or to go to the store yet again for even more lights because yes, that string you just bought last year is already broken. But the best of times are just an attitude adjustment away, and cold slush can be fun if you decide that it is, so the most important job is to decree the magic in everything that you do. Because no, it's not like snow in winter, it's more like radishes in spring: plant it, nurture it, and watch it grow. (And you can't actually count on snow in winter anymore, either).

We spent this past weekend, or week, really, Christmasing (for the amount of work it takes, it ought to be a verb). We strung lights, inside and out, we swapped normal dishes for santa ones, we stuck a tree in the corner and covered it in trinkets collected from all over the world. We listened to carols, we played carols. We made ornaments to gift to others. Boxes were carted up and down the basement stairs so many times the cat lost count. The dog is over this santa fad, why is her dinner late? And, finally, I sewed new socks and we hung them by the chimney with all the care our tired limbs could muster. We worked, but we also worked at having a good time, because sometimes your best times are just an attitude adjustment away. That's where the music, and the wine, comes in.

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