1. The Tree. Like I've mentioned before, I seriously love staring at the little twinkly lights while curled up on my couch. Exponentially better with a cup of hot cocoa, a bowl of buttery popcorn, a movie on the tube and my man to snuggle with. Actually, that's all good any time of the year, but something about the tree makes it all feel so much cozier.
2. Rosy Cheeks. As much as I hate the icy cold wind we've had lately, I do love how my face looks when I step in from the cold. My eyes are shiny and bright and my cheeks are flushed. Who needs makeup when you've got that?!?
3. Christmas Lights. It doesn't matter where they are, I love looking at Christmas lights. When I was a kid, we used to pile into the minivan and drive around to look at all of the lights in our town. I swear my Dad got more excited than we did, searching for the biggest and brightest display. When I started dating The Dude, we did the same thing together during our first Christmas. There's something just plain magical about driving around in the dark, holding hands over center console and ooh'ing and aah'ing together over the really good lights. Yes, it's totally sappy, but seriously romantic, too.
Last week, The Dude took me on a White House tour so that I could see the Christmas decorations. In all my years spent in DC, I had never seen the White House at Christmas, so I felt like that was a little magical, too.
4. Catching up with Friends and Family. Sadly, I haven't been "home" since Christmas last year. I saw my Mom in September in Phoenix, but I haven't seen my Dad, brother or sister in a full year. I'm SO freaking excited to get together with everyone. (Ohmygosh. I just realized that it's been even longer than that since I saw my brother, since he spent last Christmas in Missouri with his girlfriend.) I miss them so much. Every. Single. Day. It's always hard for me to go home, because I spend time after I leave questioning why I live so far from home. With The Dude leaving in March, and me considering that it might be time for a change, I expect that those questions will be a little more poignant this year. But regardless of that hangover, I love how the holiday season brings us back together with family, encourages us to catch up with friends we haven't seen or spent enough time with recently. It's like the tree - it's just a warm, happy feeling.
5. Giving Gifts. Don't get me wrong, I love getting gifts, too. But I really love the anticipation of watching someone you love open a gift that you know is going to make them happy, the smile that spreads across their face when they realize what it is, and the hug or kiss that comes next. When it comes to your significant other, and you really hit the nail on the head, that look in their eyes when they see how well you know them - priceless. In that way, I mean that it's more about the connection, not about materialism.
And speaking of gifts, it's so great when people get out and volunteer and help out more this time of year. Granted, we should be doing more of it all the time, but there is so much need at this time of year, so it's great when others can help out with that gift, even if it's just a gift of time. Two Saturdays ago, I joined in with thousands of volunteers to help lay wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery. It was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done, and I felt privileged to have heard about it in time to be able to join in and participate. Definitely the type of volunteering I'm going to resolve to do more of in the new year.
So, since I'm writing this while covered in a snuggie, with the lights twinkling on my tree at my feet, and The Dude sitting next to me watching Monday Night Football, I'm feeling pretty content right now. Hoping all the warm-and-fuzzies get me through the week - celebrating Christmas with The Dude on Wednesday and flying home on Thursday. (Oh, and did I mention that home is sunny San Diego, with unseasonably warm temps lately? Yeah. Can't. Freaking. Wait!) ...