but if we are wise, we know that there's always tomorrow
Anya remembered the days before Christmas trees, when mistletoe was banned by the Church as being 'too Pagan' and when, if you looked hard, you could still find real Druids and Pagan festivals that weren't noveau and trendy, and she remembered going through Holland one year, and seeing wooden shoes.
"It's not supposed to be this way, you know," she remarked conversationally. "There's supposed to be more burning, and the tree would be outside, and really, it's quite a religious event."
Xander turned to her, "What?"
She patiently held one end of the lights so he could wrap it around the tree. "Trees aren't supposed to be like this. Oh," she amends, "they're prettier like this, probably, but this isn't the way you're supposed to do it."
Xander finished stringing his end, and looked around the branches at Anya. "What'm I doing wrong?"
She sat. "Well, first of all, you're not going to church."
Xander blinked. "You want to go to church?"
"Not really." The idea of church, and the sounds of church bells, had been pretty much drummed out of her head. "It's just Christmas has evolved so much in the last thousand years. I like it better this way, I think. There's presents."
Xander had already moved on to the garland. He added absently, "And egg nog."
She crossed her legs, frowning. "I don't remember much about the Roman pagan holiday anymore. Shame. Those were fun; all pigs and drinking."
Xander muttered, "Sounds like Christmas to me."
The thing about Christmas, back in the day, Anya decided, was that it wasn't supposed to be fun. In the last little while, things had improved immensely. She mused, "I went to a pagan winterfest one time, when I was just a young thing. Three Grathar demons were mixing the wine. It was fun."
"Did you ever go to church?"
"As a demon?" She snorted. "Not bloody likely."
Xander eyed his tree. It was a cross between a Charlie Brown Christmas and an accident with a chainsaw; but it now had both garlands and lights on it. He said, "So you drank a lot, and, what?"
She grinned. "It's against the laws of the Druids to tell anyone outside the circle what goes on."
"Now I know you're teasing me."
Xander looked thoughtful. "When I was little, my mom took me to Midnight Mass a couple of times. I couldn't believe how pretty everything looked, with all the candles."
"That's traditional," Anya announced. "Midnight Mass is something that dates back, even before my time."
Xander said dryly, "Wow. I'm impressed."
Anya looked at the tree, and stood up with purpose. "It needs decorations. And if you want me to go to Mass this Christmas, to relive some happy memory of your childhood, I will."
Anya also remembered church, and the soft glow of things, and sleeping in a one-room hut. Her memories from that far back were fuzzy, and she wasn't surprised; she'd never needed them, never wanted to keep them fresh, because the time in which she was born was mostly hard work, cold, and hunger; the only thing that twinged her to Christmas back in the days when she was a human was the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, the way they tickled her nose. She liked gingerbread cookies.
She added, "But I won't sing."
Xander muttered, "Thank god," and smiled at her, putting the gaudy plastic Jesus on his little tree.
But then Xander said:
Then they had sex under the tree, under the symbol for life carrying on even as the snow falls. They had sex in full view of the plastic God, sex without wooden shoes or stone circles, sex without communion. They had sex that turned cool winter skin to summer. They lived happily ever after.