Many people are stressed during the Christmas holiday, which can range from being overextended to feeling depressed.
Even for those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas, there is no getting around it.
From television to radio and in my case, to most of the people I know, Christmas is the overriding topic of interest. Sure, it’s a free country and people like me can do what they want, but as someone who has been known to veer from the “mainstream,” I can tell you that sometimes it feels like I’m in the wilderness talking to the wind.
Holiday parties at the job are an amusing case in point. Even those who actually celebrate the holiday may not want to go but go anyway because it’s the political thing to do—not to mention that there may be an open bar. At any rate, free food is a guarantee. Ultimately, this is why many of us attend these things. Christmas celebrators and non-celebrators alike gather in one location: Some are enjoying themselves and others are plotting how to leave unnoticed as early as is acceptable.
However, you don’t know from pressure unless you have tried to beg out of going to the holiday party due to religious reasons. They’ll say, “Well, it’s not a Christmas party, it’s a holiday party.” Translation: By not using the word “Christmas,” we are not referencing the ostensible true religious meaning of the holiday and thus the party is safe even for those who may be celebrating Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.
“But I don’t celebrate any of these December holidays,” you say, trying to follow the logic. Most likely, you are met with looks of confusion and incomprehension. “So come anyway. What’s the matter, you don’t like us?”
To be fair, though, I remember fondly the days when I used to celebrate Christmas. As a child, everything about Christmas was filled with wonder. I was totally spoiled when it came to receiving gifts–both before the Santa debacle and after finding out Santa sucks because he doesn’t exist. Yes, dammit, it still stings. But even at eight years old the profound life lessons were not lost on me: 1) People you love and trust the most can lie and betray you; 2) “White” lies and regular lies live on the same side of the fence. Good to know.
When I realized that the gifts were still coming every year, Santa or no, the offense was duly noted but all was pretty much forgiven.
My grandmother had 14 grandchildren and used to host big extended-family celebrations on Christmas and indeed on every major holiday, including Thanksgiving and Easter. I always loved these events, but then again I somehow managed to be oblivious to any psychosocial drama and dysfunction brewing in the background. These gatherings ceased as my grandmother aged and eventually became bedridden, and by the time she died, so had the tradition, and no one else took up the mantle. Nuclear families went their separate ways and created their own traditions and dysfunction; some developed alternative beliefs. Members of the larger family still see each other at weddings and funerals, maybe on the internet. Once in a while, we see the locals around town during the course of conducting life’s business.
I like taking time off from work during the Christmas/New Year’s holidays in part because I can operate in safe mode and limit my exposure only to what I can handle. I have time to set myself up for and dream of the future.
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2010