Blue Days of December

I am in a “blue” mood — dark blue as can be. That is to be expected. It happens every year. It is December, the month of traditional holidays and the month when I get my dose of the traditional blues! Yes, I know it is pretty common — many people get the blues around Christmas for a variety of reasons — mine are caused by nostalgia. I am wrapped in it like in that dark blue fluffy tissue which comes with other colorful tissues for stuffing gift boxes and bags.

For some years it was nostalgia for my native Poland and my family there. Since I moved to Tucson I have an additional one — a nostalgia for Massachusetts, specifically for Boston and Cape Cod. I miss my good, long term friends — who through the years became my extended family — whose children grew up with mine, went to school, graduated and flew into the world.

This double-dose nostalgia intensified for me in recent years — my parents are no longer waiting for me in Warsaw…only their graves. Of course some friends and members of the family are still there, but somehow after my mother’s death I can’t gather any excitement for going there. Well, maybe next year….

Christmas card from Poland Polish paper-cut tree (Wycinanka)

I will always miss the Christmas cards that my mom wrote. She made sure that they would arrive on time, because she always included in them a traditional Polish oplatek — a thin wafer that symbolizes bread to be shared with others at the Christmas Eve table.

I truly love living in Tucson with its warmth and blue skies, but at this time of year I can’t help but miss pine trees and the little chill that makes us sit at the fireplace and sip warm apple cider or red wine. Mostly I miss the traditional Christmas Eve, the aura of it, the anticipation, the charm, and the magic of the traditional Christmas carols. I believe some things that we learn to love as children stay with us forever.

I wrote about my childhood Christmas times in Poland in my book Looking at the World Twice. You are welcome to download and print that story, Christmas.

Actually I was able to recreate that special mood and importance of my favorite day of Christmas — Christmas Eve — in our home on Cape Cod.

It all started the first winter of my single motherhood. I wanted to have a Christmas as in Poland — magnificent and magical for my children — but did not have any family to share Christmas. My Polish family was across the ocean in the hostile political system of those times and the American family was gone — as happens after divorce. I was truly scared, especially before such an important holiday, that no one would invite us to share it with them. I was scared to be just the three of us — two small boys and I at the big, lonely table — so I decided to invite others to that table for my traditional Christmas Eve.

I invited a very friendly family in the neighborhood, a family of six — a couple with three children and grandfather. It was one of the best decisions of my life! Grandpa Lloyd became a very important figure for us and especially at Christmas — he read the traditional Christmas stories to the kids (and us) after supper every Christmas Eve. The next year another family joined us, then another, and some friends. The traditional sitting at one table was not possible anymore, but we did not mind.

Later, I got remarried. Some of the families had new babies. More friends and families joined our Christmas Eve gathering. It became huge! … so did our Christmas tree. We all listened to Polish carols (from a record) and sang American ones (from printed books and notes) — we ate, we drank and we were merry, plus a bit tired that night of Santa’s arrival, but again we did not mind. The Christmas Eve at our home became an annual event that nobody wanted to miss — it was our tradition for 17 years.

Christmas tree Christmas tree detail
Christmas tree detail

Now I miss the huge Christmas tree in the house on the Cape. Our home’s raised roof allowed us to “invite” such a big tree for Christmas. It felt and smelled as indeed the forest had come for a visit.

Decorating the tree took long hours. After finishing, we listened to my favorite Polish Christmas carol. I found that carol on YouTube so you can listen too.

Now in Tucson I miss those Christmas Eves very much, but it is impossible to recreate them. We are all in very different stages of life and far away from each other. In Tucson with 75 F warmth it still seems strange to me to shop for a Christmas tree — an activity which in the Northeast was so much fun on a cold, crispy day with a bit of snow on the ground.

Christmas has a different charm in Tucson. Here it is fun to wait till the 45 F or so of the evening, put on some light boots and a jacket, and walk in a park or in a neighborhood to enjoy colorful lights on lavishly decorated homes and trees. Also the traditional luminarias, characteristic of this region, add to the enchantment.

So perhaps it is time (for me) to give up the idea of a large Christmas Eve gathering and to create another possibility for being with others during the winter holidays — maybe a New Year’s Eve celebration?! It fits better with Tucson’s starry nights and our southwestern house with the large patio. I will let you know.

Happy Holidays!

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Copyright © 2010 by Alicja Mann

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9 Comments on “Blue Days of December”

  1. Lesley Says:


    I know what you mean about feeling nostalgic for Christmas the way it was when we were kids–or when we lived in a colder climate that seemed more “Christmasy.” BUT what a beautiful day it was today and how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful place as Tucson! I know you feel this as much as I do, though I definitely have had my blue moments as well. Let’s get together before the new year. -Lesley

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Lesley,

      Many thanks for writing and for understanding my blue mood! As you know such nostalgic moods (for whatever reasons) usually last just a few days – they are good to honor because they tell what is important for us.

      YES! We shall get together before this year ends. See you soon – Alicja

  2. Pam Polloni Says:

    My memories of Christmases past came back as I read Alicja’s post — memories of childhood Christmases on the north shore of Massachusetts and of those Christmas Eve’s spent with Alicja’s family and their friends and neighbors in Falmouth. Now, having been in the Southwest one year between Thanksgiving and Christmas and seeing the lights and luminarias in Santa Fe, I can picture the festive atmosphere of Tucson and know that it will be a lovely time to be among friends in their new setting. Thanks, Alicja, for keeping those old memories alive. Love to all, Pam

  3. Alicja Mann Says:

    Dear Pam,

    Many thanks for writing at such a busy time of the year.

    Pam, I am missing you, your family, and our Christmas Eve times together. Yes, I do love the Southwest, its warmth, architecture, and luminarias, but… still in this time of the year mu heart is “traveling” frequently to my native Poland and even more frequently to the Cape where I re-rooted myself so well – thanks to you and other good FRIENDS.

    From Tucson with love,

  4. […] P.S. Three years ago I wrote in this blog the post “Blue Days of December” and perhaps some of you would like to read it: […]

  5. Brenda Says:

    Hi Alicja,
    Pam forwarded the link to me. I am treasuring those memories you stirred in me. I listened to the Christmas Carol then downloaded it from itunes. Its one of my favorites. I also remember Grandpa Lloyd dancing on those Christmas eve’s at your home–oh how he loved to dance! It was such a treat for him to join in. I am going to forward the link to Lucy, Barbara, Jay and Annie. Thank you for creating those wonderful times, now memories, that warm my heart.
    Love, Brenda
    We loved seeing Matt this summer when he came to celebrate our 70th birthdays with us when all of our “kids” and grandchildren (6) were here!

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Hello Brenda! Many many thanks for writing your kind comment!

      I am so glad that you have such fond memories of our Christmas times together. I will always keep in my heart your classy and dancy father! He was very special, and so was Rita, right? But what a different style each of them had!

      The times of my life on the Cape will be engraved in my memories forever, just like the ones from Poland. Thank you and your family for contributing to my efforts of re-rooting in this country. Cape Cod will be always a very special home for me, even being far away from it. Big hug for everyone in your “gang”!

      Love – Alicja

  6. Kanerva Says:

    Beautifully written. I felt like I had been one of your special guests. I’m sure a new tradition will grow with you and before you know it replaces the holiday blues.

    • Alicja Mann Says:

      Dear Kanerva,

      What you wrote here is what so many writers dream to hear from their readers – many thanks! I am very touched and would like to send you my book of essays as a gift, because I am quite sure that you would enjoy it. The title is “Looking at the World Twice” and the beginning of the year is perfect time to look at the world twice or more times.

      Please go to my web site and see this book closer. If you would like to have it, please send me your address – all my coordinates are on that site including telephone, e-mail address, and s-mail address. I would be happy if you could accept my gift.

      Thank you again and have a great New Year of 2014!

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