Today my confession is that I hate the holidays. Dread them. You may have noticed, as I have, that they are coming soon. Consequently, I am now filled with my customary bad feelings and humbug.
Doesn’t that seem like such a stupid way to spend half the year? I do, though. It’s half the year because I spend some time dreading Easter, also. And I tend to overachieve by spending the odd moment in the summer pre-dreading all holidays. So I’m adding up all the holiday dreading and estimating six months or so.
I didn’t hate them before, but I do now.
I don’t think I feel like going into all the reasons why I dread the holidays so much. I will tell you part of them, though, which is that holidays are very stressful for me, there are all kind of stressful logistics involved–which I do not enjoy at all– and lots of feelings and there is financial outflow that seems completely pointless in many cases and also at the end of it, I don’t feel like I actually celebrated the holiday, which I think is why I feel that the financial outflow is so pointless. All the spending didn’t equal observance. It did not buy me Christmas.
I don’t mean that I’m against gifts. What I mean is stupid spending that is very me-specific that I get caught up in every year, and is not meant as a judgment of anyone else’s spending. I mean decorations I don’t know if I really even like but that fill a spot I feel is lacking decoration (???)(during the rest of the year I somehow know that the spot is just fine), I mean glitter–HOW MUCH do I spend on glitter every year? TOO MUCH. I don’t put glitter on that many things, you guys. But at Christmas time it just feels so right! Or filler gifts for the kids that they don’t even want but I have this idea of how much should be under the tree–and it’s not a large amount. We are not extravagant spenders. Without the fillers, our kids would get one or two gifts. These are the gifts they really want. They tend to want things in a certain price range, and of that price range we can give them one thing, and they don’t often want the little, inexpensive things. They have their hobbies and that’s that. So, the filler gifts are small and make up bulk and yeah, aren’t even really wanted by the end of the day. I hate that. Why do I do it? And even more, stress out about it? What if there’s not enough? Their childhood won’t be haaaaaaaapy! (pause for tears)
I haven’t even addressed Thanksgiving. I think I’m not going to go there in this post. Just consider it dreaded.
Anyway, all the stress and Santas and glitter and bright! shiny! things! isn’t what I want. It’s not what I want. But it’s what I give myself every single year, and every year I tell myself it’s for someone else. The kids need it. The family expects it. EVERYONE ELSE NEEDS AND EXPECTS IT.
In this quieter time in October, I think about it and wonder if they really do need and expect it. Do they need and expect me to visit the craft store twice a week to look at glitter and I don’t even remember what all? Do they need and expect me to worry to the point of misery? Obsess over a gift wrapping theme? Be quietly furious because my husband has not gotten together with me to formulate a shopping plan? And so forth.
I remember my favorite Christmases. They are all dark in my memory. It’s the common thread, really. That and the quiet.
…I went with my friend to a nighttime performance at an old, barely-heated stone church. It was dark, there were candles and a light on the stage. There were students from a music school who performed on the organ, in a choir, on other instruments. Quiet and a little solemn. I fell asleep and no one noticed. It was so peaceful.
…My mother’s friends used to have a Christmas open house. Dimly lit, subdued revelry. Happy, but not a loud party. I would sit on the couch with my drink and watch all the people as they talked. Sometimes I’d have a short conversation with someone, but I was content to sit quietly.
…My mother would have the same friends over to our house on Christmas Eve sometimes. Again with the dark house and candles. There were small gifts exchanged, a little wine, and an early bedtime for me and my brother.
…Brandywine River Museum on Christmas Eve with my father and brother. Dark and mysterious with model train displays everywhere. It was a trip to get my brother and me out of the house while my mother prepared for the holiday, but knowing that didn’t make it any less magical.
…Our church doesn’t have a choir. There used to be one that was put together only for Christmas and Easter, and I remember one particular evening before Christmas we met at the church to sing at an evening service. Those moments before walking in our line to the front of the church and taking our places reminded me of earlier days in other choirs and it felt like home. Something about the dimness, and the fatigue, and the warmth, and the quiet primping that women do to one another before walking up in front of a group of people, it all has a womb-like feeling for me.
So you see what I mean. I want what, for me, feels like a “real” Christmas this year. I know it may not be everyone’s idea of Christmas, and I’m not saying it should be. It’s mine though, and every year I feel that I betray myself. I want darkness, and magic, and wonder. I want my kids to know what that feels like.
I want some new traditions or practices or something that reflect who I actually am and what’s important to me. I am not sure where to start.
So. Two things:
(1) Do you have thoughts about what I could do toward this end? Maybe something you’ve seen someone else do, even if it wasn’t what you wanted for your own family, perhaps you’ve remembered it?
(2) As I think of things or get ideas from others, I’m going to post them in follow-up posts, just in case you feel the same way and were looking for some ideas or moral support.