It is indeed that time of year again and Christmas is fast-approaching. For many of those who celebrate, this is arguably the most magical time of year. For others, the Christmas season is quite the opposite, and is actually more of a cesspool of depression and loneliness.
As an adult without children, I have to admit that Christmas has lost some of it’s allure. There’s no innocent belief in Santa to excitedly encourage, no pile of cash to purchase an abundance of gifts with, and no Hallmark movie plot to play a role in. I think many people feel the pressure to reenact something out of a Norman Rockwell painting (old-fashioned wholesomeness). The obvious stereotype being a large gathering of family and friends in an upper middle class and lavishly decorated home, presents galore, spiked cider, laughter, joy, and even singing carols. Everyone’s issues are temporarily cured by their discovery of the Christmas spirit. Life feels good, uplifting, and hopeful. Now, I’m sure there are some people who genuinely experience something like this, but is it a realistic expectation or goal for the average person?
Growing up, I did have something kind of like this, of course this was perceived through the eyes of a child. Both of my parents were always there Christmas morning while my sister and I excitedly opened our gifts. Our family was together, we had nice decorations, and a real tree. As I got older, the one thing that really came as a slap in the face was the realization that not everyone is available all the time, holiday or not. I worked as a caregiver and then as a CNA in a nursing home and, funnily enough, it turns out the elderly need care every day of the year. I wasn’t always available to participate in family gatherings. Then I started working third shift and I definitely wasn’t always available then. The realization that life doesn’t stop to embrace your desire for the magical Christmas you see in the movies is an unpleasant, but necessary lesson to be learned. I imagine it must be really hard for parents who would like to be home with their kids Christmas morning, but are unable to because of work or other obligations because even if the magic isn’t alive for yourself anymore, you’d surely want to protect it for your children as long as possible.
Despite the efforts of those that pushback on blind consumerism, there’s obviously still a lot of pressure on people to spend more than they can afford for the holidays, especially if they have kids. So much of the excitement and anticipation for the big day is because of the knowledge that there are presents! I can remember that feeling of waking up my parents (the rule was we had to wait until 6 am), running downstairs, checking to make sure that Santa and the reindeer had eaten the snacks we left out, grabbing our overflowing stockings and bringing them by the tree so we could open them first. We’d sit there impatiently waiting for my mom and dad to stumble downstairs and grab some coffee so we could begin. Then came the satisfaction of my parents finally settling in so we could dig in to all the gifts that had appeared under the tree overnight. Even as a 30 year old, I can remember how wonderful that felt as a child. My sister and I were very fortunate that my parents were able to create that magic for us. It saddens me to think of all the parents who desire the same thing, but are unable to bring it to fruition.
There are things in our everyday life that interfere with our ability to execute the ‘Norman Rockwell’ Christmas. Things like depression and anxiety do not inexplicably disappear on cue. Some people simply are not close with their family and the reasons behind that don’t disappear on cue either. I think of those who can’t be with their loved ones due to military deployment, incarceration, death, etc. There are so many things combating the idyllic experience so many of us long for, not just on Christmas, but in our every day lives.
The days go by so fast. Sometimes it’s nice (and necessary) to have an excuse to slow down and try to enjoy the moment. Is the magic of Christmas even real? For some people, yes, but certainly not all. For those who don’t have the circumstances, luck, blessings, whatever you want to call it that makes the holidays a fulfilling time in your life, I hope you’re able to be at peace with whatever your experience is. Maybe you just need to put your head down and get through it the best you can and, if that’s the case, there’s no shame in that. There are many people who don’t celebrate Christmas and there’s no steadfast rule that you have to just because you did when you were younger or other people in your life do. That being said, if you long for some Christmas spirit, but have had little luck in finding it, maybe you can create your own. Donate, volunteer, or reach out to someone else struggling this time of year. You may not be able to have the stereotypical magical Christmas, but that doesn’t mean that what you do have isn’t good enough. If comparison is the thief of joy, then gratitude is the bringer and there is always, always, always something to be grateful for.
I hope you have a Merry Christmas, whatever that may look like for you!