I hate Christmas.
There, I said it.
As soon as the Halloween bowls dry up, stores ditch the creepy skeletons and hang the creepy Santa decor. They encroach before Halloween is over but it’s a blatant avalanche once October 31st hits 10 pm.
I wish I could enjoy the music and the pumpkin spice latte movement. It looks fun. It looks comforting. It seems to be the kind of holiday that can ooze itself among two calendar pages while making people think of family and eggnog.
I’ve never had eggnog. Is it tasty? I’m too paranoid about calories to even try.
Growing up in a strict, religious household that didn’t celebrate Christian (or, as my father put it, “pagan”) holidays, Christmas meant nothing to us. While the outside world hustled for Santa’s arrival, we pretended it didn’t exist.
If anything, the Christmas holidays were a nuisance. It meant no parking when you legitimately need to go to a store for non-holiday reasons. It also meant that on Christmas Day, there was nothing to do. Nothing. In the years we had a television, it was pointless to find anything to watch. At the time in Canada, the only thing on every channel was Queen Elizabeth addressing her commonwealth plebs.
Forget trying to watch anything on the French channels. Her address was dubbed over. Homegirl could stretch (cue a fancy British accent), “this time of year we are so thankful for blah blah blah” into a solid eight hours. The only person who hated the address more than I did was probably the Queen.
For a few years, I went to a friend’s house for Christmas. Anna’s parents never questioned why I was there, inhaling volumes of mashed potatoes and stuffing. It was wonderful. Loads of carbs and happy people. What’s not to love?
When it’s not celebrated and sometimes despised by parents, it creates a Pavlov’s Dog reaction for the rest of that child’s life.
Today, I went to the mall. It deserves an announcement because I do almost all my shopping online and seeing other humans makes me want to gouge my brain. However, I trusted a friend’s suggestion during Sephora’s annual sale and I had less than a month to return it.
Do you want to know what time of year it is? Swing by Bath and Body Works. They’ll slap their Jolly Elf Candyland Fir hand soaps in your face as you walk by. They single-handedly play holiday music so loud, it can be heard down the mall to Old Navy.
I stupidly went in because you know…candles. And right now, their candles are buy one, get one free. Am I going to spend $25 for two candles? Hell no. Am I going to pretend that I am and sniff every tin-lidded deliciousness? Absolutely.
It was a mistake. My anxiety was already through the roof as I walked passed the Santa photo setup. Don’t kids wonder why the jolly bearded dude is there so early? Like he’s got so much time that he’s ready to handle snotty, abrasive kids before turkeys are killed?
As I walked past the soaps to the back with the candles, speakers blasted Michael Buble’s holiday hits. Or at least, I assume they’re hits, because “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” seems to be mandatory on every fucking holiday CD.
Note that I do adore Mariah Carey’s massive hit but that’s a one-off.
I didn’t want to smell the candles with red trucks hauling pine trees or gingerbread men. I beelined for the Normal, Boring Candle section. Hook me up with some Sugared Lemon Zest as the good lord intended. As I opened each one, sniffed, returned, and went back to the lemon ones, I tried avoiding the audio.
The more I heard, the more depressed I became.
My memories of Christmas with my family stopped when I was six. That’s when my parents decided to go balls in with Islam and announced Santa was no longer an infidel who could break into the house. I have no cherished memories.
I used to dread returning to school after the holiday break. The first day was spent talking about gifts. Skis, video games, and other privileged-level presents were discussed ad nauseam. I had nothing to contribute. It was an annual ritual that I couldn’t participate in.
As usual, I was an outsider.
When I got a family of my own, I tried my best to compensate. But no matter how much I decorate, my heart isn’t in it. It’s stressful taking the bins down from the garage and going through the piles of tinsel and snowmen plates.
I am adamant that there is never to be a red and green theme. My holiday decor mimics Hanukah colors of blue and white. It looks more like a winter wonderland than the barn in every Hallmark Christmas movie.
Now that I’m divorced, it seems ultra depressing. Last year was our first post-divorce holiday. The kids begged me to bring all the presents over from my house to their dad’s house. Their logic was that it would allow them to divide which toys they wanted in which house. And they wanted to see both of us all day to play with their new toys. How could I say no to that?
It was a massive pain. I couldn’t pre-emptively leave the wrapped toys at Joseph’s house because he’s an idiot who would leave them somewhere the kids would find. The kids also needed to see me hauling wrapped presents in that morning, as if I discovered them under the tree.
While I’m glad I spent the day with the kids, it was awkward. I’d like to avoid it this year; my strategy is to make it seem like Santa delivered their presents early the night before because he knew they had two homes. I still need to solidify my Santa Logic.
It seems pointless to decorate when I only have my kids half the time despite knowing that it means even more to them. Christmas is supposed to be a family holiday. I don’t need even more reminders that I don’t have my kids. It still pains me that I’m a part-time mom. It’s like I lost my job as a tenured professor at Stanford down to an occasionally-working dishwasher.
I’m not knocking dishwashers. I’m just saying that it’s a drastic shift.
I’m in my forties. There is no perspective shift or enlightenment happening. There is no chance that I’ll look upon the holidays with excitement. Instead, I do what I do every year: I grit my teeth and suck it up.
My mental advent calendar counts down the days until this nightmare is over. The depression monster inside of me already fights to resurface; holiday time is like giving him ten Red Bulls.
It gets harder and harder when the Christmas countdown starts sooner and sooner. Will I deal with Feliz Navidad right after the fireworks on July 4th? There’s only so long I can dig my nails into the palms of my hands, pushing down the depression beast, and not letting my anxiety-turned-overwhelming-dread into something that causes me to lay in bed all day.
The best holiday is Valentine’s Day. Not because of the love and romance aspect. Seeing heard-shaped boxes on shelves means my yearly nightmare is over.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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