New York Christmases are spectacular. People are rushing around, but not in their usual dickish way that makes my blood boil. Their hearts are warm and open instead of cold and closed off. Their arms are full of gifts instead of divorce papers and cigarette butts. It’s the one time of year that these walking statues covered in bird shit transform into loving human beings. I moved away because one magical month out of the year wasn’t reason enough to stay. Sadly, I haven’t been home for the holidays in years. While my family sat around the dinner table swapping jokes and making memories, I was 800 miles away, working in retail. That meant I spent my Christmases alone in Chicago, patiently waiting for customers to tire themselves out from screaming at me for what, I attempted to explain, were very solvable problems. Magic in the air!
On those days, homesick and fully discouraged by the human race, I’d take solace in my new solo holiday routine: making a hundred Baileys cinnamon martinis (chocolate milk for grown-ups!), wrapping myself up in a gigantic blanket on my couch, and watching every Christmas episode of 30 Rock. It was the perfect solution. I got to see the New York I wanted to remember: glistening snow-topped trees, twinkling lights, incidental music with sleigh bells jingling, and of course, horrible people making small exceptions in their personalities for a few sweet moments.
In “Ludachristmas,” 30 Rock’s first holiday special (and one of my personal favorites), we see the meaning of Christmas get mangled in a debaucherous boozefest by the cast and writers of TGS, only to be rectified by “NBC Goodest Boy” Kenneth Parcell with help from his pal Reverend Gary. They show the crew how children less fortunate than themselves embody the graciousness of the holiday spirit. Their reaction is almost sweet, though it misses the mark completely; they try to tear down the iconic Rockefeller Plaza tree, and Tracy Jordan reveals he’s been drinking the whole time despite his court-sanctioned ankle monitor. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t really “get it.” All that matters is that they kind of, sort of, tried. Meanwhile, the ironically saccharine Lemon family gets broken down by Jack Donaghy’s iconically iron-hearted mother, Colleen (played by Elaine Stritch!), which reminds us that we all have hurtful secrets, repressed resentment, and lies that are eons old. Opening up those wounds is a reminder that honesty is a big part of love. Fighting isn’t always against the spirit of Christmas. Other people arguing, in Jack and Colleen’s relationship, brings them closer. And hey, that’s kind of, sort of, sweet.
Watching those loving moments mix with the uglier, perhaps truer nature of these characters, strikes that sentimental holiday chord in my heart. It would feel, for 22 minutes, like I was with my own family. Everyone kind of, sort of, learns a lesson about what it means to be in the spirit of Christmas, which is, without fail, almost immediately forgotten. And that’s good! It means you get to learn it again together next year, if you are lucky enough to go home for the holidays. This is the first time in years that I’m able to see my family for Christmas. I quit my job in retail, which is exciting enough on its own, but I now have my dream job—writing for a television show like the Liz Lemon I always wanted to be—where I’m given the time to go home and live the ups and downs of my own holiday episode. Merry Ludachristmas!