I’m going to start out by saying that I almost never read Christmas books. As a person who is Jewish, I make a conscious effort not to read Christmas books. Call it dedication to being different or an obstinate approach to a time of year that drives me crazy, but being Jewish at Christmastime is hard and I’d rather not indulge the holiday spirit any more than necessary. I prefer to celebrate my own culture and heritage instead. Which means, I don’t read books about Christmas.
Before I get a barrage of comments about how I’m anti-Christmas, let me just say that I have no problem with the actual holiday and those who do celebrate it. In fact, here is my (short) list of things I do like about Christmas:
- The joy my Christian friends and family experience during this time of year.
- Shopping for presents (especially Christmas Markets – dude, I could go on and on about my LOVE for Christmas Markets!!!!)
- The pretty lights everywhere (especially in the southwest where the cacti are all lit up!!)
- The feel of the holiday break.
What I do have a problem with is how Christmas is celebrated in the United States, with the general assumption that everyone celebrates and the overexuberant commercialism surrounding this time of year. I mean from November 1st onwards (really? Can’t we at least celebrate Thanksgiving first?), you can’t walk into a store that isn’t shoving Christmas décor, food items, apparel, or gifts in your face (and there are barely any of these items to celebrate other winter holidays. In fact, if there are things related to these other holidays, it always feels like an afterthought – and that’s IF there are any things relating to your holiday.) After Thanksgiving, it just gets worse – everyone wishing you a Merry Christmas or hearing Christmas music everywhere you go.
It’s disappointing. We are a such a smorgasbord of a country with so many different faiths and holidays that assumption is that everyone celebrates Christmas is a hard pill for me to swallow. Worse, if you don’t celebrate or don’t appreciate all red and green things all around you, you are somehow declaring a war on the Christmas. I’m not trying to declare a war on Christmas, but a general acknowledgement that there are other winter holidays that people celebrate would be nice. It would make everyone feel included, important, and special. In this day and age of being more sensitive and more woke, this should be the standard. And really, what’s so wrong with saying “Happy Holidays?”
But, rules were meant to be broken and when one of my favorite romance authors (ok, two, but that’s because they write together and publish under one name) released a Christmas book, I was completely torn. On the one hand, I just don’t read them. I have a rule, you know? On the other hand, it’s 2020 – aka, the sucky year that just won’t end and don’t I deserve another fluffy romance novel? Couldn’t I break the rules just this once? It is a self-imposed vow… Well, I did. And I’m so glad!
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren is, frankly, one of my absolute favorite books of the year. When I originally read it, I thought, “Well that’s cute, but it’s a Christmas book so I guess that’s that.” But, I kept coming back to it. Over and over and over. Every time I was in between other books or struggling with a book that I wasn’t really enjoying, I opened up the pages to reread the adventures of Mae. In fact, the book is still sitting on my bedside table and I’m still picking it up every couple of days start over. Because every time, it makes me feel warm and cozy inside. Could I ask for anything more?
Maelyn Jones has just finished the worst Christmas of her life. Her tradition of congregating at a cabin with her family’s oldest and dearest friends starts to unravel when at the end of the holiday, the friends who own the cabin announce that they are going to sell it. No more Christmases at the idyllic snowy landscape with all the people Mae loves most in the world. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, she accidentally hooks up with Theo, her long time friend, even though she has been in love with his older brother, Andrew, for most of her life. Her goal to push past it is dashed when she finds out that Andrew knows about her misadventures in making out with Theo.
In addition to her terrible holiday, her non-Christmas life is not going so well either. Her career has stalled and she lives at home with her mother and her mother’s new husband. At 26, she feels as though she should have it more together. So, as her family drives to the airport after their last Christmas at the cabin, Mae makes a wish to see what would make her truly happy. She wakes up back on the plane headed to the cabin six days earlier and she enters a “Groundhog’s Day” style adventure reliving the holiday week over and over again. Will she be able to correct her mistakes? Can she save the cabin and a possible relationship with Andrew? Well, it is a romance novel so you can probably predict the ending.
Even so, I loved this book! I could identify with Mae’s troubles as a young adult trying to figure out her life and her place in the world. Instead of living authentically, she always worries about the people around her and doing the “right” thing. Instead of going after the things she wants, she lingers in a job she doesn’t like and she can’t be honest about her feelings for Andrew. Once she gives up hope of getting through the time travel loop and starts living more authentically, she makes significant, long overdue changes, and becomes a happier person. That really rang true for me.
I loved the relationships in the book, not just the one between Mae and Andrew but the love shown between the families who come together to celebrate. The group that visits the cabin is made up of four separate families and the relationships they have with one another are so adorable and sincere. They truly love spending the holiday together. Even Mae’s divorced parents reconcile so they can spend the holiday together at the cabin. It is such a touching tribute to what Christmas should be and what I’ve always envisioned it must be like. The joy. Truthfully, however, you could replace Christmas with any big family get together and still get the same feelings. (Really it sounds like what happens when my family gets together for Passover, so it does work.)
The book is also incredibly funny. There are several parts where I laughed out loud at the craziness of Mae’s antics (whether intentional or not.) When Mae wakes up for the umpteenth time on the plane headed back to start her holiday again and shouts to the entire plane, “I don’t understand what is going on!!” I laughed. When Mae and Andrew start the snowball fight to end all snowball fights, I laughed. When Mae starts telling her truth and everyone looks at her like she’s off her rocker, I laughed.
Now I can’t say I’m a Christmas book convert. I’m still not certain that Christmas books as a genre are going to be for me. But, I did learn not to dismiss them out of hand. So the next time one of my favorite authors offers a Christmas installment, I might be willing to give it a shot.
That’s what this book was all about.
In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren, published 2020