Don’t say it.
I know what you’re going to say after you read the next few sentences. Please don’t. I’ve heard it before, and it doesn’t help.
I have a long and complicated relationship with Christmas. Actually, it’s not that complicated.
I don’t like it.
Now raise your hand if you thought, “He’s a Grinch” or “What a Scrooge.”
Because that’s what I usually hear when it comes up in conversation. It’s a grossly reductionist response that contributes nothing to the situation. And the truth is, I’m neither Grinch nor Scrooge. Sometimes I wish I was, though.
After all, life would be a lot easier, a lot more black and white, if I could scheme away in my cave to steal the joy of the season from everyone in the village below. Or if I could huddle in a chilly corner of my office, pinching pennies and telling charitable individuals to go boil in their own pudding. But that ain’t me.
I don’t like Christmas, but I don’t begrudge anyone else the opportunity to enjoy it. Go ahead and deck the halls, put a partridge in a pear tree, and jingle all the way. I hope you have a great time doing it. Just don’t look at me sideways when I say I’d rather stay home and relax.
Why don’t I like Christmas? I don’t know. I used to love it, and then one year I didn’t. It made me and continues to make me super depressed. Circumstances have contributed to it over the years, and I could write a book about the hypocrisy inherent in the season. But my origin story is a mystery, even to me.
That said, I do my best most days. Try to do my best some days. And try to try to do my best on the really hard ones, like today. I look for the holiday lights that make me feel better. Not the ones wrapped around Christmas trees, but the ones that – to me – are the silver linings on this difficult time of year.
Things like the Christmas tray my grandmother bought from me in sixth grade when we were selling stuff for a class trip fundraiser. We had these ridiculously huge cardboard brief cases full of different trinkets and things no one really needed, and we lugged them around everywhere for a solid month, trying to make some money. Grandma bought a few items from me back then, and when we were going through her belongings after she passed away three years ago, I found that tray sitting on a rocking chair among old clothes and magazines. Grandpa told me I should have it, and I didn’t argue. I don’t think you could sell that tray for 50 cents at a yard sale, but it’s worth a lot to me. Especially this time of year.
I also really enjoy kitschy decorations from most any era. Last year I found a string of Santa Yoda Christmas lights at a flea market, and I added those to my collection. Today, my wife and daughter gave me a string of R2-D2 lights to accompany them. They’re ridiculous and wonderful. The lights, I mean. But also my wife and daughter. I also got my hands on a neat little punk-rock bulldog ornament, yesterday, and he’s a real treasure.
The new light I’ve discovered this year is leaning into the season through writing. Both personal stuff and fiction, which is always personal in some way, too. I’d never thought to approach and process the holiday this way before, and it’s made a big difference. The Christmas story I’ve been sharing on the blog via The Comfort Rock Chronicles has let me approach this time of year on my terms and at my pace, which helps quite a bit.
Finally, there’s also the grimly reassuring knowledge that I’m not the only one in this place right now. My counselor told me the phones of her and her colleagues start going wild a week or two before Thanksgiving and stay that way until the new year is underway.
It’s a difficult, complicated, messy time of year for people of all ages. Even kids. Especially kids. Working in schools, I can confidently say that behavior-wise, this is one of the most difficult – not wonderful – times of the year.
Each and every person is struggling in a different way. Christmas doesn’t change that. Compassion does.