Thursday, December 02, 2010

Not everyone gets enthused about the Christmas holiday

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Well, the holiday season is upon us and the demands on our time are going to be more than what we're used to. While the quiet Christmas Eve filled with soft music, a beautifully lit tree, the dog and cat cuddled up next to the fire and the kids fast asleep waiting for Santa are all picture-perfect, it takes a heck of a lot of work to get to that point.

Let's just say that the house may not be quiet and peaceful because it was planned that way. Everyone may be just too exhausted to stay awake!

If your pets are like mine, they spend most of their time playing with the tree ornaments while you're not looking. To cats, especially, all those tangling ornaments are like magnets to a piece of metal. At some point, they're going to connect when they get close. It just can't be helped.

The lead up to the holidays is extraordinarily busy for everyone. There are gifts to buy, decorations to put up, cards to send, people to see, and lots of cooking!

Everyone wants the perfect holiday.

I'm no different. Like many others, I pretty much go crazy at this time of the year. In the next week or so, I'm sure I could attend a Christmas party every night of the week if I were so inclined. Every business group, company and association is having some sort of soirée to thank their clients and friends for a wonderful 2010 and to get a head start on chatting about the business and work to be done starting Jan. 1.

Every year, I promise myself that I won't get too caught up in the craziness but wanting to be perfect during the holidays is an affliction that many of us suffer from at this time of the year. Everything has to be just "so" and everyone has to be happy. While that may not be the case for everyone, I think it's an honourable thing that so many of us try especially hard at this time of year to make others happy. I think it certainly shows in the faces and moods of people around us.

While many of us love the holidays, the same can't be said of some. The holidays, for them, represent sadness or stress. For some, a special person in their life may have passed away during the holidays or some other personal tragedy befell them such as a marriage breakup, accident or illness. For others, especially those with not-so-happy family lives, the holidays mean memories of a lot of arguing and tears.

It's a sad statement that most of the people I know who don't like the holidays have terrible memories of an alcoholic parent. Holidays during childhood were spent cleaning up messes, avoiding a drunken tyrant or spending their time being embarrassed by a liquored-up mother or father who ruined family gatherings.

While those of us who did not have to deal with an alcoholic parent as a child associate the holidays with toys, happiness and time off from school, those who lived with a parent who drank too much associate it with everything bad about life - only exaggerated. When I hear Jingle Bells, it puts me in a good mood.

When the people I know who grew up with an alcoholic parent hear Jingle Bells, they're conditioned to dread the next few weeks.

Let's just say that if the parent drank a lot before, when the holidays arrived it just got exponentially worse. It was bad enough when there was no "reason" to drink (not that alcoholics need a reason), but when there was indeed a "reason" (i.e. the period from mid-December to New Year's that we normally associate with the term "holidays"), then it was just that much worse.

I can't imagine having to have grown up like that. I'm glad I didn't. The worst thing that happened to me was trying to get to sleep with burning eyes from all the cigarette smoke in the house. Growing up with two parents who smoked meant that I was more or less used to the smoke, but when the air in the house was literally blue due to a gaggle of smoking adult relatives over to visit and play cards on Christmas Eve, the smoke would billow out of the back door whenever someone arrived or left. I swear, someone driving by would have thought the house was on fire.

It must be so difficult to be sad and depressed during a time of year when people feel so much pressure to be happy as a lark. It must be like feeling thirsty and walking through a desert . . . or hungry for an apple and showing up in an orchard after it's been picked clean. What you need isn't what you're getting.

And people like me probably aren't much help, either. I love the holidays and must admit to not having the most patience for people who don't enjoy them as much as me. It all comes down to what we were conditioned to and what we relate this time of the year to, I guess. For me, it's about family, gifts, a beautiful church service (although I haven't been to church on Christmas Eve in a few years - hopefully no one from church reads this), and lots of hugs and smiles.

For others, it's quite the opposite. Their conditioning and memories are not good in relation to the societal pressure to be not only just "happy", but quasi-elated beyond belief.

For those of us who love the holidays, let's make an effort this year to pull off a miracle for our friends who don't associate the holidays with pleasant memories - no matter the reason, be it personal tragedy, negative family issues, illness or what have you.

The best gift we can give the holiday non-lovers is our patience, understanding and best efforts at creating happy holiday memories for them. And if that doesn't work, let's just shut up about the whole Christmas thing when they're around.

You're welcome!

1 comment:

Ray Hiltz said...

Christmas can and often sucks. No one could possible live up to the mythical snow-globe world of perfect families sitting around perfect meals opening perfect gifts.

But we can dream can't we? I had some terrible Christmases as a child. I remember hiding my head in my pillow to deafen the noise of many Moosehead fuelled family fights.

I'd sing Rudolf over and over to myself and imagine what it would be like to live with Mr. & Mrs Santa Claus at the North Pole.

It's those memories of where I wanted to be and not where I was, that I try to revive each Christmas.

I fight every year to resist the pressures that commercial and familial obligations bear upon me. Sometimes I win, sometimes I don't.

Whatever head space I'm in, walking through a downtown street-scape of bright decorations and falling snow always makes me smile and sing along with Bing - "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas".

Your Christmas spirit is infectious. And it can only affect those within it's range positively whether they they think they are immune or not.

Thank you.