Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Xmas Spirit

Now is the time of year when people take to sighing and saying things like, "I'm so glad there's snow," as though snow is what makes or breaks the Christmas time. Or mock-pulling out their hair and hissing, "I haven't finished my Christmas shopping," because we all know that gifts are the most important part of the festive season. Or sardonically lifting their shopping bags and saying, "I just don't have enough time," which is true, especially since people waste so much time kvetching about their lack of minutes in a day.

I am not pro-Christmas. I'm not anti-festivities, but the whole brouhaha over the red-green-and-white is kind of garish and weird. I had a talk with my mom the other day, who was hurt that, if she didn't put up Christmas decorations (and she does an amazing, tasteful job of decorating every year), that I wouldn't be moved to, out of tradition/holiday joy. And I wouldn't. I like certain aspects of the holiday season - the family, the meals together, the winter wonderland walks, the visits with old friends - but there's a lot of stuff about this time of year that really grates.

For example. I love my family and my folks are amazing people, but coming home for weeks at a time is a huge disruption on my schedule. "Oh, boo hoo," I can hear you saying. "Poor little match girl, with the schedule-distruption and the crying. Waaaah." Look, I'm not saying that coping with a different dinnertime makes me some kind of hero - I'll leave the heroing up to Disney princes, thanks - but it is stressful. Having people cook for me takes away the control I had over the food I eat, and sorry, but that is rough times. I've lived on my own for the past three years, and I've come to be, well, sort of a picky eater. This extends to dinnertime, which often coincides with the news. My parents' place? Six o'clock. Mine? 11:30. See? Different. And we can all agree that change is hard.

This is a depressing time of year. Hello, the winter solstice is, like, four days before Christmas. These are the shortest, coldest, windiest days of the year, and while whoever thought to plunk a festival down in the middle of the short, windy, cold days and make it about giving and the birth of the Saviour probably deserves at least a piece of Toblerone, it doesn't detract from the fact that, after the whole Santa season, we're still mired in that cold, windy, short-dayed season.

I guess part of it is the whole ridiculous commercialism of it all. I'm pretty isolated from the real burning core of it, since I don't have kids or shop in malls all that often, but it seems like every holiday that gets its own seasonal crap at Shopper's Drug Mart has a marked tendency to annoy the living shit out of me. Valentine's Day? You bet. Hallowe'en? Yup. Saint Patrick's Day? Oh yeah. Christmas is the big offender, though, since its "season" extends from early November until the last of the discounted chocolate Santas are sold in January.

My favourite holidays are the ones that are about family and getting together. Simcoe Day is an especially good one, since it combines the summer, family, and the joys of taking a day off work because the goverment tell you to. That rules. Plus, Popsicles are awesome. Plus, there are very few commercial takes on things like Canadian Thanksgiving - sure, maybe a harvest wreath or a pumpkin ale, but that's so minor compared to the H-bomb that is Christmas decorations. Maybe it's because this is ostensibly a religious holiday, but it certainly doesn't feel like a godly time of year. I associate religion with times of reflection - faith, the nature of the world in which we live, piety, etc. The Venn diagram overlap of "religious days" and "days when it's acceptable to cut a bitch for a Tickle Me Elmo" shouldn't be as large.

But that's the world we live in. I guess I need to come to terms with the fact that I will always be slightly freaked out by Christmas, and learn how to play along because my family and friends generally do. The nature of the solstice, by far the more understandable holiday in December, is about renewal and cyclical rebirth: the days can only get better/longer/warmer from here. Christmas is the same. The days can only be what we make of them - more about family, more about friends, more about growing into adult relationships with both. So, Merry Christmas and all that, and here's hoping the holiday season is all that you want it to be.


  1. I understand your attitude. "playing along for the family"
    I asked for zero presents, yet I still came back to the city with a suitcase of things I don't need and won't use. And they bought them for me (yes partially out of love) but because they feel they have to. And when I explain my thoughts about Christmas they seem hurt.
    I view it as just another visit home, but on the Christmas trip I have to bring the bigger suitcase.
    Makes you wonder what kind of christmas we will teach to our own kids.

  2. I know! I think the painful thing is recognizing the traditions people used to have with their families, and the pain comes with losing those traditions due to getting older/wiser/more adult/further away. There are things that I really cherish about my family's Christmas, but a lot of Christmas-as-concept really bothers me, because it's so driven by something outside of both my family and the spirit of the day.

    I think our kids will be fine, because we understand the importance of the important things and are willing to let the rest slide.