Traveling home is a holiday tradition I can count on in my family. Growing up, I spent many Christmas Eves or Christmas Days in an airport traveling to see my dad’s side of the family. And there were many Thanksgivings or Saturdays after Christmas that were spent driving three hours to visit my mom’s side. As an adult, I’ve always lived a plane ride away from my parents, meaning I’m always heading home for Christmas.

It’s probably also why I’ve always been fond of the classic Christmas carol “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” The lyrics are simple, as you might recall.

“I’ll be home for Christmas / You can plan on me

Please have snow and mistletoe and presents under the tree.”

There was more than one trip to our dad’s family that was cut short due to an incoming snow storm. As children we relished the idea of getting snowed in with our cousins for a few more days—our parents not so much. As an adult, there have been at least one or two Christmases I’ve returned to snow in my Midwest childhood hometown. And of course, what good is a tree if there aren’t presents underneath it? In fact, I always find the tree looks extraordinarily bare when the gifts have been unwrapped.

But this year, I’ve been struck by the sense of dreaming of and longing for home in the original song’s lyrics.

Written by Buck Ram, Kim Gannon, and Walter Kent, the original song begins with a slow melody:

“I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love

Even more than I usually do

And although I know

It’s a long road back, I promise you

I’ll be home for Christmas….

If only in my dreams.”

There has always been rest to be found in the homes I travelled to for the holidays, perhaps because I am leaving behind the signs of my personal work and responsibilities, and most definitely because I am surrounded by loved ones.

Home has taken on more complex meaning during this past year as it’s become our offices, our children’s school rooms, our “meeting spot” for virtual happy hours, and dare I say, a place we’ve gotten sick of when we spent days on end there with few options of other places to go. It hasn’t been as easy to invite loved ones into our homes, and for the hostesses among us, that’s made them feel a bit emptier.

It may still be a long road back to reclaiming our homes as a place primarily for our personal lives—as social distancing will continue to encourage work from home and some distance learning arrangements. And I can’t be the only one dreaming of what it was like to be able to leave work at an office—out of sight and out of mind when you’re on a weekend or a holiday.

Which got me thinking—what if this Christmas season, we worked to reclaim our homes as just for us (not for work, not for school) even for just a few days? As we near Christmas, whether you’re able to go home and gather with family or not this holiday season, perhaps it’s worth finding places to store your computer, your children’s school supplies, and any other reminders of the pandemic quarantine life that may have cluttered your living spaces. Let’s not let the complex meaning of home that emerged in 2020 completely change what it looks like to be home for Christmas.

The Christmas tunes in this playlist focus on the specialness of being home for the holidays, making it the perfect accompaniment to the process of reclaiming our homes as just that.