“Everyone loves Christmas!” they say. What’s not to love? People get so easily swept up in the fanfare and warm-fuzzies. I think people fail to realize that for some people Christmas can be the hardest time of the year.
Santa Claus was never a part of what we were told about Christmas as children. We were a family of dirt poor ragamuffins living off the charity of good-hearted people. I remember when my parents did tell us about Santa and how there’s a myth that kids believe in which he brings good children the things they’ve asked for for Christmas. I remember thinking that was so silly, but simultaneously wondering why our gifts came in little boxes marked “Girl, age 5-8” or “Boy, size 6.” It didn’t take me long to figure it out.
For a while that became the Christmas secret in our family that we couldn’t tell the little kids – not that Santa wasn’t real, but that our gifts had been donated and weren’t even from our parents. I think I was about 7 when I fully understood this. I think that was the first time I didn’t look forward to Christmas, and I haven’t since.
There were a hell of a lot of other things going on in our lives at that time, and I was at an age where I was understanding a lot more of what was going on around me. To put it nicely, it was the age at which the complete disillusionment became a solid fixture in my perspective of the world. Even though little of my life was mine alone, my sense of foreboding as Christmas approached wasn’t shared by any of my family. They still don’t understand my distaste for the season.
I suppose the strength of my feelings about it all is compounded by the simultaneous start to a series of panic attacks and an anxiety disorder that was subsequently treated. The association of panic attacks with the twinkly lights and the incessant music and the smiles plastered to every face whether they were real or not… it’s stuck with me.
Every year I resolve to get over myself and actually enjoy Christmas. My family loves it regardless of their ability to share gifts or be around one another. They play Christmas music for weeks and decorate to a nauseating degree, and continually try to talk me out of the anxiety that arises every December. Each year I help more with the tree, sit a little longer amid the lights, try to hum along to the carols. I really do better every year. It’s just as hard each year, but I try a little harder each time.
I think that eventually I’ll enjoy Christmas. Maybe when awful events stop coinciding with the date. I love the smell of pine needles. Christmas oranges have always been my favorite. I like that my family still goes to midnight Mass on Christmas eve. I’m horrible at giving gifts, but I like to do what I can. There are a couple of Christmas movies I like, that I wouldn’t mind watching from year to year. Eggnog. Eggnog is pretty much the elixir of the gods.
Christmas isn’t the best time of the year. It isn’t anything to wait all year for. It isn’t all that it’s hyped up to be. But it is the celebration of the birth of Christ. And it is a time to spend with loved ones. And it isn’t as bad as I’ve always felt it to be. Maybe one day I’ll look forward to it.