Christmas or Whatever

Christmas is nearly upon us! I have many friends who thrive during this season, immersing themselves in the decorations, gift preparations, card sending, and all the other behaviour we tend not to engage in during the rest of the year. Their houses are decked out, they’ve been playing holiday music since (American) Thanksgiving, and their Facebook feeds are filled with photos of strange little elves doing stuff that really no one, elf-kind or otherwise, should be doing.

Until relatively recently, I found Christmas and everything that went with it unbearable. When I was younger, the expectation-to-reality ratio was always extremely imbalanced, and in my teens I quickly came to see Christmas as the time of year for fights, terrible music, nasty fruitcake, and being forced to stay at home with no means of escape while the rest of the family slept all afternoon, leaving me by myself. To top it all off, it was expensive, and my after-school, minimum-wage job cleaning up dog turds at the veterinary clinic never quite covered all the gifts that I wanted to buy.

After I got married, I quickly found out that Hubby loooooooved Christmas. Being the stubborn person I am, I dug my heels in and made it clear that there would be no tree, no decorations, and definitely no holiday music in our place. The Grinch was my spirit animal, and he was alive and well in me. I was allergic to Christmas, I said, and Hubby needed to respect that. Yeah, in retrospect I see how selfish that was, but at the time I was absolutely not cool with yule.

Unsurprisingly, this took a lot of the fun out of Christmas for him. At first I didn’t mind because I got my way. But after having kids, I noticed that his enthusiasm for the holiday didn’t pick up the way I thought it would, and suddenly I was the one choosing the tree and the decorations and forcing myself to learn the lesser-known verses of “Jingle Bells” while mulling wine and baking rum cakes no one would actually eat.

This year we have no tree. Time just got away from us, and neither of us had the presence of mind or energy to bring one home. Things 1 and 2 don’t seem to mind, as Thing 1, ever the pragmatist, is fully aware of who Santa really is (himself, since he insisted on going shopping with me so he could choose what he wanted), and Thing 2’s teacher is giving him and his classmates the Elf-on-the-shelf treatment at school. Otherwise, the Christmas shopping is done, the dessert making has begun, and my one string of TARDIS tree lights hangs humbly in the living room.

While this would normally suit Grinch me just fine, I do feel like I’m missing something this year. It’s like when people really enjoy Scotch or licorice or polenta, and I just cannot get behind it, but I wish I could because they’re clearly finding it delicious, and that’s just one more joy in the world I can’t tap into. My friends who turn into grinning idiots every December are experiencing warm fuzzies that I cannot possibly understand, and for once, instead of thinly veiled disdain, I think I feel envy. It’s weird.

This does not mean that I’m going to turn into an overnight advocate for Christmas cheer. I still find 99% of holiday music annoying, I have never even seen A Christmas Story (nor do I have any plans to), and you’ll never catch me wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. I will, however, admit to liking one or two very cheesy Christmas songs (no, I won’t tell you which ones), and I’ll also concede that maybe this holiday isn’t as terrible as I used to feel it was. Perhaps Christmas, for me, is like Scotch, and it’s time I started acquiring a taste for it.

(Or I could just drink actual Scotch.)

Happy holidays.