Christmastime in Nashville is my absolute favorite. I love driving around the fancy neighborhoods to check out their Christmas lights, discovering the local pop-up Christmas bars and coffee shops, and attending gift and cookie exchanges with friends. I spent most of 2022 out of town for weddings and related activities, so I planned to spend most of December in Nashville to recover and celebrate. I even made a checklist of Christmas-related activities to do while I was finally in town for more than a week.
However, two weeks before Christmas, my plans were thwarted. I woke up feeling miserable one Tuesday morning and, two Covid tests and a box of tissues later, I was confined to my apartment. I canceled flights and plans, sent my dog to stay with my boyfriend (I was too exhausted to walk him regularly), and settled into a welcoming, but disappointing, mound of blankets.
I rested for days, doing nothing besides hydrating, napping, and watching an endless stream of Hallmark Christmas movies. Almost every Hallmark film follows the same script—a corporate curmudgeon lacking Christmas spirit discovers the meaning of the season and love all over again, usually in a small town and whilst wearing flannel. Against my usual nature, I sensed my own Christmas spirit was in trouble when even the predictably hopeful ending of each Hallmark story did not fill me with joy. Instead, I was channeling the corporates, grumbling to myself about the unrealistic plots and cheesy scripts.
But a line from one movie stuck out to me in my grumpiness: “For the love of Christmas, where is the magic?” In my talking-to-myself stage of quarantine, I audibly said “AMEN!” Where was the magic in saltines and Gatorade for dinner, in spiking fevers and loneliness? Where was the magic in canceled flights and missed wedding celebrations? In struggling to get enough air and being separated from the people I wanted to share the season with?
When I finally had enough energy to brave a short walk to get fresh air, I opened my apartment door to see my holiday doormat. Scrawled across it was the word “joyful”—a feeling I’d been missing in my grinchy mood.
And it was then I humbly realized that even in my stuck at home state, Christmas magic still came to me. Magic was my friends standing on the sidewalk outside in the cold to talk to me on my porch for just a few moments. Friends who dropped off soup and a plate of cookies from a missed cookie exchange, who called at 2:00 p.m. to check in on me, who mailed Christmas presents instead of delivering them in person when travel plans were derailed. Who agreed to watch Christmas movies via FaceTime, even though the streaming refused to sync and we had to listen to the whole movie in echo. Who encouraged me to rest after a long, exhausting year.
Amy Grant’s Christmas albums are a staple in my annual holiday celebrations. Her songs transport me back to childhood, wrapping me in the nostalgia of singing in the kitchen with my mom. One of my favorite songs of hers is “A Christmas to Remember,” and while her lyrics include much more pleasant holiday memories than my DayQuil and cough drops, I’ll remember my less idyllic December all the same.
Towards the end of my sickness, I convinced myself to pour a vessel of hot chocolate and drive myself around to view some neighborhood Christmas lights. I played A Christmas to Remember, cruised through Nashville with no planned route or GPS, and felt genuinely joyful as I would turn each corner to be greeted by rows of beautiful lights. My December in Nashville didn’t look at all as I had planned, but it brought me the unexpected rest I didn’t know I needed—and I’m choosing to believe that is my own bit of Christmas magic.
Olivia graduated from Calvin in May 2018 with a double major in business and writing. She now works as an editor in Nashville, Tennessee and is eating her way through the restaurants of her new town. She enjoys weekend trips with friends, petting other people’s dogs, and drinking coffee like a Gilmore Girl.