I have always loved the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", better known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" or "The Night Before Christmas", by Clement Clarke Moore. I remember it fondly from childhood... and revisit it every year at Christmastime.
There's just something about that poem that made me love the idea of a Christmas Eve just like that described in it; one that was soft, romantic, and Victorian in aesthetic.
Of course, my Christmas Eves were of a much different and livelier sort of affair, one that I remember very fondly as well. In many ways, my traditions were perfect for night owls, who even as tiny tots would never be in bed by 8 or even 9 pm. Nope, not in my family.
The Night Owl's Holidays
The putting up of the Christmas tree, for instance, eagerly assembled during Advent, often began at an hour usually referred to as "late night"by the 9-to-5ers of the world. The stereo would blast Christmas songs way past midnight as the tree's assembly progressed, with branches being grouped according to size, the larger ones at the bottom and the smaller ones at the top. Twinkling Christmas lights and tinsel foil garlands of green, gold, and silver enveloped the tree. Ours was definitely a maximalist's Christmas tree, full of ornaments, both store-bought and the result of class experiments in art. It could also be called a sentimentalist's tree, reflecting Christmas seasons past, a veritable time capsule of our family's holiday history.
Christmas Eve meant Midnight Mass in my city, but it wasn't a part of our particular family's tradition. For me, Christmas Eve would officially begin with an earlier Mass, sometimes one during which we, as schoolchildren, would sing as part of the choir, having been recruited at either school or parish, both having been intertwined at that time. The main reason for the earlier Mass, though, was that our family -- the extended clan -- would gather together for a Christmas Eve feast that would culminate in our opening of gifts at midnight! Occasionally, our family would celebrate in similarly lively parties with friends or quietly on our own, but it was this annual gathering of the clan that was a highlight of the night.
Even during times when we would spend a relatively tranquil Christmas Eve at home, though, it was never about going to bed early to wake up in the morning and open up gifts... no, no, no! Regardless of where it was spent, Christmas Eve was a night owl's dream, when nary a person left the party or crawled into bed until the morning hours.
I can imagine our celebrations were a bit harder for morning larks!
Morning Larks and Night Owls Celebrate
So, what do you do when you are wired differently from the expectations of your family or culture? What is best for your sleep wellness? Well, I actually wrote about this last year... SO, instead of reinventing the wheel, here's a link to that blog post: https://www.sleepwellblog.org/post/staying-up-past-your-bedtime
Regardless of chronotype, you can always find a tradition that works for you. I have embraced many Christmas traditions over the years, as lifestyle, whim, or circumstance dictated. I made Midnight Mass and watching The Nutcracker a part of my Christmas Eve tradition at one point. I loved the idea of leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus, going to bed early to dream of sugar plums, and waking up in the morning to open gifts as a child. I tried a version of this, sans the milk and cookies for Santa part, later in life. Let's say I haven't tried it since!
The 2020 Holiday Season
No matter how we've spent the holidays in the past, though, this year will be something different ... let's keep it real, here.
This holiday season, depending on your area, there will be limited or no gatherings as COVID-19 has come to town. So, you can bet that it will be an online Christmas of social media posts and Zoom calls for many of us. For me, Midnight Mass will probably be a livestream as well. Netflix and other streaming services will likely be experiencing heavy traffic. So, besides issues relating to chronotype and to maintaining a sleep schedule, there is the added challenge of blue light and of "being wired".
Holiday Sleep Wellness Tips
From a sleep wellness standpoint, here are some tips for the holiday season:
Consider using a blue-light filter that gives your screen an amber glow...actually, it's a cosy kind of colour, if you think of it.
Consider blue-light filter glasses. Some people invest in these amber-tinted glasses that filter out blue light, and the good thing is that some of them are actually much more aesthetically pleasing in terms of design now.
If you have a fireplace, why not use it and candlelight for warm, ambient light?
Of course, let's not forget that your Christmas tree lights add to atmosphere, so why not enjoy them for the evening as you begin to wind down? Now, of course, if your lights tend to be especially bright and if they tend to be LED lights, you may want to turn them off or sit farther from them as the night wears on.
After your Zoom calls, why not wind down with Christmas songs and carols to bring good cheer or why not try reading a book?
Remember to limit alcohol and caffeine. It is recommended that you drink them no later than 5 to 6 hours before bed, although...truly...neither of these is really good for sleep. So, think of alternatives like mocktails or herbal teas, especially if you are prone to having trouble sleeping.
And, so now that it's about 4:30 pm on the 24th of December, I think I'll be leaving you with these ideas and a...
...HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."