By Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen

What She Said:
There’s something warm and comforting about hearing the same Christmas songs every year of your life. Instant nostalgic imagery — both real and imaginary — fill my brain the instant I hear Dean Martin or Gene Autry belting out a holiday tune. It brings me back to a simpler time when Christmas just seemed, well, simpler.
As I kid, I remember drinking hot chocolate watching each week as a new candle on the advent wreath was lit, somehow grasping that it was both a solemn and anticipatory time. Yes, presents and Santa and all that jazz was fun, but it was so much more.

The celebration of the darkest time of year with the coming of the light. The birth of a baby who taught everyone how to love more. The sense of oneness with the community and the world who celebrate this special time of year.
I have to admit that in my earlier adult life, when I was single and childless, Christmas just wasn’t as fun or special. A lot of times I had jobs where I worked on Christmas Day, so it was just easiest to try to pretend that it wasn’t a special day. When I moved back home to North Dakota, the holidays became special again.

And when I had a child, the spirit of Christmas came back again, full circle.
Every Nov. 1, I start listening to Christmas music, not because I want to skip over Thanksgiving or anything. I listen, because it gives me two good months of nostalgia about the holidays. It gives me a chance to think about the Christmases that came before and the Christmases that are yet to come. Most of all, it gives me a warm feeling in my heart that helps chase away the winter chill. And a cup of hot chocolate doesn’t hurt, either.

The youngest Hagen awaiting Christmas

The youngest Hagen awaiting Christmas

What He Said:

Every memory I have of Christmas as a child is bright and colorful and happier than any other ornament hanging on the tree of my mind. It was easily my favorite holiday, my preferred time of every year to be alive.

What is there to hate about Christmas for a child? Sugar-encrusted cookies? Check. Trees allowed in the living room? Check. Dad walking around on the roof, covering it in colored lights while swearing profusely? Check. Boxes containing toys wrapped in shiny paper that you get to rip off violently? Check, and mate.

Much like our sweet Annette so eloquently put it, up before I started writing, I think I enjoyed the anticipation of Christmas as much, if not more, than the celebration of Christmas. I was an advent calendar enthusiast. Our family’s calendar was a cloth deal that hung on the wall, and it had all these pockets sewn on amongst a Christmas scene of toy soldiers and gingerbread cookies. Each pocket had a number, and each morning we put a stuffed toy, shaped like an elf or a reindeer or whatever, with that day’s number into the pocket with the same number. And my brother and sister and I would fight over whose turn it was to put the trinket in the pocket each morning.
It got kind of brutal, some mornings. The kind of knock-down, drag-out fighting that’d get you exiled from Santa’s good list. You gotta be tough for weird reasons in order to be a Hagen.
But it filled me up, watching the Christmas season slowly unfold. Like I was the advent calendar, and each day another empty pocket was filled. The decorations going up in the mall or on the streets and on houses across town; the holiday specials on TV — “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” somehow became my favorite, only because I don’t really understand literary classics unless they’re dressed up in corporate cartoonery; the cookies and candy canes and hot chocolate and tinsel that the cat would eat and puke up in gross wads of shiny horror.
As a parent, it’s important to Annette and to me that we instill this same feeling of excitement into our own child — Nodaddy Iwillnotsharemycheeseburger (not her real name) — for the Christmas season, as only a child can feel it. We’re old and crusted over. Joy just doesn’t kick in like it used to. But in the eyes of a child of our very own, we can at least get a front-row seat to wonderment, again. It’ll fill up the advent calendars in our souls.

Merry Christmas, from our family to yours. May the season fill you with joy, wonder and stuffed figurines dressed to look like elves.

Columnists Annette Martel and Kelly Hagen are married, have one daughter, live together, eat together, breathe together and write together. It’s a whole lot of together with these two.