I love Christmas. AB SO LUTE LY LOVE IT! I mean, the whole Christmas tree. The lights. The music. The food. The possibility of snow. The food. The laughter. The food. The presents.
Did I mention the food?
I love everything about Christmas. I love how much fun I get to have with my kids and my family.
I love being the first person up on Christmas day. Sitting in my recliner and watching my children come down the steps and their eyes glowing with greed and anticipation and excitement.
And I know what’s under the tree because I have likely wrapped everything and that means I know how much they are likely to love what I got for them which makes me feel like Super-Mom!
If I had a cape, I would totally wear it on Christmas.
But I have a very dark side to Christmas as well.
As much as I love it, I fall into a very dark depression because of Christmas.
You see, the hardest thing about Christmas for me is that it ends the day it happens. All this build up. All the work to make this day hugely special ends. Quickly.
And then the work begins. I help make Christmas dinner. I clean up the mess from all the wrapping paper and the boxes scattered around the living room floor. All the work I did to put up the tree and the Christmas decorations means that I will have to take them down. Which is depressing.
One radio station in my city-area starts playing Christmas music right around Halloween. But then changes the programming in the middle of Christmas Day.
It’s like all the anticipation of celebrating is suddenly and immediately halted on the day that we are supposed to be celebrating.
It’s not like we get to have 24 hours of celebrating. What with that weird thing called sleep and then cooking and eating and driving to all the places we have to go, I don’t celebrate for 24 hours. I celebrate for about an hour. And then it’s work.
And I don’t even cook the turkey or the biggest or hardest dishes…..
My mom/mother-in-law are the seriously hard cookers. I can’t imagine how that might be frustrating for them.
I have to admit, I love Christmas commercials. Because they only add to the excitement of the season.
And the Christmas specials? Oh, I love watching the crappy-claymation-Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And The Grinch. And Charlie Brown? Sign me up, even though I always get depressed at how awful everyone treats him.
And that doesn’t even include the old 60’s/70’s versions of the Night Before Christmas in which everyone has bucked-gapped teeth and red circles on their faces (You know, the one in which the mouse kid breaks the Santa Clock because the mouse-kid is a skeptical jerk and almost ruins Christmas for everyone).
Christmas in Germany meant going to the Kristkindl Markt. Christmas in Germany meant snow right after Halloween which meant standing by the radiator and watching the snow making paisley spiral turns in the streetlight.
Christmas in Germany meant skiing and sledding and snowball fights and snow forts and snow angels and snow and snow and snow.
Christmas in Germany or America meant painting ornaments for myself, for different people, for family members. Christmas meant decorating the tree with the ornaments and then telling stories with the ornaments, creating huge soap operatic storylines that could never be concluded.
Every ornament had a story.
Every ornament was its own story.
Christmas was cookie baking, standing in my parents’ kitchen and singing while making Dad’s favorite 7-layer cookies. Or my favorite butter-spritz cookies. I never really loved chocolate chip cookies because they weren’t Christmas cookies. I could make those year round. But, for some reason, I could never even imagine treading into the blasphemous region of making the other cookies outside of December.
When I was in college, I would fly home to Germany and, after sleeping for hours, I would kick everyone out of the kitchen, turn on my favorite cassette tapes, and start cooking. Even though the Germans have strict laws about sound escaping from one’s apartment, I didn’t care. It was Christmas and no one was going to get in the way of me singing along with Annie Lennox or Sting. Sure, they weren’t high on the Christmas carol list, but I didn’t care. I was baking Christmas cookies and no one was about to barge in on my territory.
The tree had to be decorated a certain way. Even after my parents and brother had put on their ornaments, I would wait until I was alone in the house and then re-arrange the entire tree to ensure that the ornaments were in their correct locations and were next to their specific friends.
And then, there were the night-time drives. Going through neighborhoods and oohing and aahing at the different light displays? Magical. A bunch of years ago, the kids and I piled into my car, went to Starbucks for hot chocolate, and drove around the neighborhoods, singing carols while staring with joy at the lights. It was a magical evening.
So how could I possibly get depressed?
Because after a month and a half of anticipation and light displays and Christmas music and Christmas cookies and students wearing tacky sweaters and meals and meals and more meals, I was nothing more than an emotional blister. I kept on swelling and swelling.
The tension is awful. Because, as the mother, it is my job to make sure that I make everyone in my family happy, even if it means that I don’t give out my Christmas wish list because I feel guilty asking for presents. Which then backfires because I might get a sucky present (yeah, it’s happened) which then upsets me because I like getting presents just like everyone else but no one bought the right presents because I didn’t tell them exactly what I wanted.
And then, I buy the wrong presents sometimes. I’m not the best person all the time and buying the wrong present is something I do every now and then. Which really hurts me because I want to make people happy and all shiny and all that. But I buy the wrong gift and the faces fall and my emotions kind of fall and get all smashed.
Essentially, the blister pops. And I get upset. And then I get depressed. And that creates a problem because everyone wants me to be happy and I can’t because I am depressed. Because Christmas is now possibly screwed up. All that work. For disappointment.
I have even called Christmas “The Great Disappointment” because I couldn’t handle the stress and the depression.
I used to take the tree down on the 26th. The tree was lucky if it saw the light of day on the 28th. Once, my husband and I got into a fight about something stupid. I was so upset I took down the tree on the 25th. I even vacuumed the apartment and then took out the vacuum bag so that I would have nothing related to Christmas still in the apartment. I really was that furious.
So, how do I deal with this?
In the last two years, my husband and I have decided to re-define tradition. We don’t wait until Christmas anymore to open gifts. In doing so, I get to continue to enjoy Christmas once the pageantry of gift exchanging is over. The kids get to enjoy their gifts well before school resumes. And me? I get to stop stressing. You don’t like a gift? Not a problem. I’ll take it back, give you the gift card, and have no hard feelings.
Christmas still ends for the world on the 25th. Yeah, I know about all the post-Christmas celebrations. But they were never part of my traditions. And I needed to find a way to marry my childhood traditions with the woman I am. And I have found it.
Pat, the kids, and I celebrated a couple of days ago. On a school night. But our daughter is currently playing Disney Infinity 3.0, her favorite gift. And our son is drooling over his gifts. And I am still in the Christmas spirit and know that when the 25th hits, I won’t stop being in the spirit. I just won’t fall into the Christmas depression.
And, knowing that, is magical.