Saturday, December 29, 2012

Not so happy holidays

I loved Christmas growing up. The music, the tree, the presents. It was the time of year I got to cuddle up in warm flannel pajamas, and chase my brothers around the house.

Christmas is magical for children, and as you get older, year-by-year, the magic slowly fades away. Christmas becomes a chore.

As an adult I still want the magical Christmas that I had as a child, but unless you have children of your own there is no real way to reenact what you experienced growing up. Then there are other people who never had magical Christmases, or maybe they had too few. This time of year looms heavy in their heart because they know not to expect anything. Maybe they never celebrated Christmas, and going to school after the holidays meant having to explain that you didn't get any presents, that you didn't get the newest toy or backpack or lunch pail.

Then there are those, like my Mother-in-law, who don't get to have Christmas with their family. And others who are experiencing their first Christmas since losing someone important in their lives. There is a reason that the holiday season brings with it so much pain and sadness -- the memories of our childhood Christmas that haunt us.

Maybe its the fact that I'm unemployed, and I was unable to participate as enthusiastically in the buying and giving this year. Maybe its the fact that I'm seeing the unhappiness of the people around me, or feeling it myself. Maybe its because I've grown up and realized that these holidays are a little too manufactured, a little too forced, but Christmas has lost its magic for me.

This year's Christmas tree. 
I saw a video from Jay Smooth that really echoed how I feel about the holidays, and the pressure and stress it can put on people, and I've come to realize that it isn't healthy building up the expectations of a holiday.

And at the same time I saw my friend Nanette share her daily elf on a shelf pictures, and I know that it is something that her daughter will remember her entire life.

So it's a conundrum. Do you give your children the magical Christmas you had growing up, knowing that there is a large chance of them having seasonal depression as an adult? Or do you try to communicate a more realistic version of the holidays? I think that is the key--finding a way to show them while they are young, that not everyone gets to have a happy holiday. Maybe through volunteering, or donating. I can tell you right now it is not through the exorbitant buying of crappy toys and games.

It's not our parent's faults that they wanted to give us a good holiday. I will always cherish those Christmases past. But maybe it's time to reevaluate how we celebrate these holidays, and find a way forward that doesn't include buying into the industry built around mass consumption and black Fridays and malls being open 24 hours. Because after it is all over Christmas is just a dead tree disposed unceremoniously on the sidewalk, and nothing about us changes except the balance in our bank accounts.


After reading through the above a couple times I realize how depressing all this sounds. I would like to say that I had a good Christmas, despite everything I said above. I was able to buy thoughtful, inexpensive gifts for my loved-ones. I wrote 43 Christmas cards to friends and family all over the country. I'm extremely grateful, and I guess, I just wanted to acknowledge the same way Jay did that there are others who experience sadness and pain on the holiday season. I wanted to acknowledge them and say it's okay to have a shitty holiday, and that you're not alone.

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