Saturday, December 22, 2007

SS: I'm Just Not Into Christmas

I have to admit it: I just don’t like Christmas. I really don’t.

I’ve tried to hide it in the past, but it’s becoming too difficult. I can’t pretend to feel the “spirit of the season” or get excited about seeing holiday lights or dream of snowflakes in Central Park or whatever. The feeling is just not there. December 25th is pretty much just like any other cold day late in the year for me. No amount of turkey, eggnog, carols, gifts or pine trees can make it any more “special” or different for me.

I don’t like winter, so I suppose that is a factor. It’s hard for me to enjoy any day this time of the year when it’s dark by 5 in the evening and the wind factor is close to freezing. This is right around the time when I long to slip on a tank top, jeans, and a pair of sandals and go walking down a nice, steamy summer street in New York City. But of course, I can’t. It’s winter. Instead I have to wear some gigantic parka and slush-proof boots. Whenever I decide to leave my most common state during this time of year – essentially urban hermitage – I am almost always sorry I did so, because it usually ends up with me sitting at a café or waiting in a line or something else near a door that is constantly opening and blowing artic wind all over the place. It doesn’t make for a cheery mood.

I feel bad about this. I did grow up in a vaguely Christian faith, Unitarianism, so I feel like this time of the year should mean something more to me. In fact, Unitarians tend to get even more hyped up over the whole “we love the human family” thing during Christmas. It’s about family! Love! Sharing! I respect this. It’s just in my experience, family and respect and love don’t go together. I realize this is my experience only, and others have had different experiences and therefore can find meaning in this holiday. I have no quibble with this. I’m glad they can find meaning and happiness in this holiday. But I can’t.

You might think this feeling is a reaction to the over-commercialization of the holiday. And indeed, this used to bother me. But for the most part, I’ve learned to tune out that aspect. But what is harder to deal with is this feeling that I am just going through the motions – sending the cards, buying the gifts, trimming the tree, etc. Take gifts: I like giving gifts, but I am fairly picky about them. I like getting people something they really enjoy. I think a good gift just sort of comes out of nowhere, as if by divine inspiration. You are walking through a bookstore, for example, and you see a book that you just KNOW your friend would love. So you buy it. Not because it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or a birthday. Because your friend would love it. The pressure to buy gifts during the holiday season sort of takes the whole joy out of this process for me. It all feels quite disingenuous.

I can’t say I don’t have ANY feelings whatsoever during this time. I do. Unfortunately, they tend toward the negative side of the emotional spectrum. I find, for example, that I have these little tantrums in my skull around Christmas. They are usually sparked by a visit to a crowded store. I’ll be standing in line or browsing some racks, and suddenly, I’ll start feeling angry. I’ll get irritable. I might even find myself saying nasty things in my head about some of the other (completely innocent!) shoppers. Something just riles me up about shopping during Christmas. Is it the crowds? The cheesy music that follows you everywhere, even into the bathroom? I don’t know what it is.

This year I experienced my first internal tantrum at a local bookstore. This was odd, because I normally love browsing in bookstores. But I had made the mistake of glancing at the shelf containing the national bestsellers. It was a sad lot, in my opinion. It was mostly a mixture of gimmicky self-help titles a la “The Secret” and knock-offs of “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” When I see that books like these are bestsellers, it makes me a bit sad. One book is attempting to give people some sort of meaning in their lives, and the other is trying to teach children about certain simple pleasures they would have never had to have been taught in any other day, age or culture. The fact that both of these books and the cottage industry of knock-offs they’ve inspired are so phenomenally successful points to some sort of void in people’s lives. And hey, I’m not saying I’m any different. I feel that void myself. Perhaps this lack of feeling over Christmas is just how I manifest it. Maybe I’m envious that there are people who can fill this void by reading a book.

I’m not writing this as a screed against people who enjoy this holiday. It actually makes me happy that people can enjoy it. I just can’t.

Yes, I really don’t like Christmas. That’s okay. If you enjoy it, go ahead and make merry. Just understand if I prefer to spend it reading in bed with the cat.

© Sarah Stanfield, December 22, 2007


Anonymous said...

WC: I know how you feel, Sarah. While I actually like winter, I find the holiday season pretty annoying. But it'll be over soon!

Patricia said...

Sarah, great post. I completely understand where you're coming from. The "holidays", as it's now appropriately called, is becoming more and more obnoxious to me the older I get. The decorations are garish, the music is annoying and the over-commercialization is obscene. It seems like the "season" is starting earlier and earlier every year. A day or two after the "holiday", the holiday trees, already dried up because they've been up for weeks now, will be in the trash.

I grew up in a Catholic family and we always celebrated Christmas with the Church. Advent, the four weeks or so before Christmas, is a time of waiting, expectation and spiritual preparation. The churches are pretty much stripped down of decoration (as was our home) until Christmas Eve when all the decorations come out and the churches look beautiful for Christmas. We did the same in our house. We always put up our tree and decorations on Christmas Eve. I remember my father always used to hang up one string of lights outside on our house. When we got a little older, our parents started taking us to midnight Mass. It's a beautiful Mass. We always sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" in Latin and English and it sends chills down my spine. I especially love to sing the verse "Yea, Lord, we greet thee, born this happy morning!" When I sing those words, I feel like I'm going to jump right out of my body. It's very sweet to see the priest carry "il bambino" down the aisle and place him in the creche and then bless the nativity with holy water. I can't wait! Come with me!