Christmas stopped being magical for me the year I found my doll and my Mickey Mouse watch in the linen closet.
[dropcap]I[/dropcap] was stunned, even though I had heard some disturbing talk that Santa Claus might not actually be a real entity, but rather a feeling or spirit of giving or something. My ears had been deaf, but my eyes saw my Christmas list in the linen closet.
I immediately went to my mother – tearful and angry at being led astray — yet, hoping still there might be an explanation that would let me hang on a bit longer. Mother was angry with me for snooping! How was that for my consolation? Here I was facing the loss of this great super bonanza once a year and she was ticked? I now understand she loved making Santa magic and didn’t want the ruse to end.
That was my 8th Christmas and the last of the reindeer hooves on the rooftop and Santa enjoying the cookies we thoughtfully put out for him. We had a fireplace and chimney and made certain there wasn’t an ember alive before we went to bed. Now the fire could blaze all night and no one would get hurt! Bah Humbug!
“The holidays,” as observed by many in this country, is a period of time from the end of November until the beginning of January, when there is a massive focus on pleasurable activities that involve family, friends, food and fellowship, as well as cooking, baking, decorating and shopping. Our activity hits emergency level with all of the parties and gatherings planned. Sometimes our jolly moods ebb with the stress from coordinating of such gatherings with family and friends.
It’s this high level of activity I want to address with its implicit pressure on us all to be merry and jolly during this holiday season. We feel pressured to seem happy whether we want to or whether we have the flu or a stomach virus. People need to be polite and not get sick during the holidays. And dying in December is really frowned upon.
Hard core celebrators want snow under clear skies with carolers singing and a house smelling of cinnamon and sugar. More power to them. I support their enthusiasm. I’ve become a minimalist in my latter years and my house would never qualify for the Good Housekeeping House of Christmas. A few familiar seasonal items go out and I over compensate with candles and poinsettias. My Christmas tree was pronounced “sad” by my eldest granddaughter. She was lucky there was an effort!
I’m also keenly aware that the holidays are a time of sadness, even depression, for many folks. Their reasons may be as simple as short days and long dark nights. Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder is a reality for many folks who dread their lack of energy and general ennui and sadness that arrive each year with its sparse sunlight and enveloping nighttime.
So, these folks and others for different reasons may be sad, blue and depressed during the season. They don’t enjoy all the festivities because they don’t feel festive. Starting with Thanksgiving, through Hanukah, Christmas and Kwanzaa, there is so much focus on family harmony and togetherness, in spite of the reality that many families are not harmonious and don’t want to be together. Old hurts and wounds arise, and a sense of loss and failure, and a myriad of other feelings are there to be faced. Or not. Either way, troubled relationships can hamper a holly jolly holiday.
Losses are felt so keenly during the holidays as we miss friends and family who used to be part of the togetherness and are no longer. Any experienced and unexpressed grief can try to leak out during the holiday months, obstructing the need to be joyful. Grief is a process that is never over but becomes less painful over time if it is recognized, accepted and experienced. Trying to stuff profound grief somewhere it can’t be accessed is a temporary fix and not reliable. It will lie in wait for an opportunity to express itself and the holidays offer many opportunities. Listen to I’ll Be Home for Christmas or watch It’s a Wonderful Life. That should do it.
Give yourself a break if you have some blue days during the holidays. Lower your expectation of yourself and of others, and put the ideal merriment and gifting into perspective.
What might have begun as a recognition of the birth of Christ has long evolved into economic indicators and questions concerning, “What are you getting for Christmas?” It seems if buying stuff — a lot of stuff – contributes to a great Christmas. And that’s fine if that’s the way you do it.
There are many folks who don’t buy into all of this seasonal hype and observe a religious event and keep everything simple and family focused. Do it however you want. Celebrate small or lavish. Make it about Santa Claus or about Jesus or don’t participate at all. Just do it your own way. And don’t feel guilty about your choice!
My mantra has been for some years: “It’s not about me. Or you.” I think it’s about what I couldn’t accept as a child. The spirit of the season is to focus on kindness and service to others. If we place the focus on time spent with people we care about, much of the anxiety and tension about producing a memorable holiday season will abate.
It really isn’t about you or me. It’s about others whom we love and we wish them well.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and a Happy New Year. And, best wishes that your Thanksgiving was delicious.