I hate Christmas

by Don Hartness

There. I said it.

I thought about waiting until after the holiday to say it. Just because I hate Christmas doesn’t mean you should. Did you have fun opening your gifts? Did you get some time with your family? Did you enjoy your family’s traditions? For all of this, and many more, I say “Good” and “I’m happy for you.” I truly mean that.

But I think it’s important to take a moment, between the wrapping paper and the eggnog, to ponder what follows. No, this post is not a Debbie-downer (it does have an upbeat note at the end, I promise).  I also don’t want a pity party for me. I’m not telling you what follows because I want you to feel sorry for me. Rather, my hope is that you remember what follows when the next holiday rolls around (if it’s too late for this season). If you do, maybe you can remove the sting a bit for those that share my sentiment.

There are more of us than you realize.

So why do I hate Christmas? How much time do you have? I hate Christmas for many of the traditional reasons that others hate Christmas. First, there is the utter failure to recognize what the holiday is supposed to be about. To the secular, this means the removal of the religious significance out of a misplaced contempt, evidenced by the changing of the word “Christmas” to X-”mas”. For many of the religious, it is the reduction (or even outright removal) of anything of substance: i.e., a cute baby in a manger, versus the message that same baby preached when he became an adult.

To put it simply, if more people practiced the “spirit of Christmas” the other 11 months out of the year, maybe I would be more excited about the 1 month of hypocrisy practiced each year.

Then there is the constant materialism starting on Thanksgiving, with each year pushing the envelope even further back (that link produced my best day for hits exactly one year later, indicating I hit a nerve on that one). Oh yes, I can think of no better way to get into the “Spirit of Christmas” than gnashing my teeth and snarling my way through another shopping season. Since you’re probably shuddering, or perhaps sighing in relief because it’s over, I won’t recap all of that here.

But the biggest reason, at least for me, is that most of my life’s tragedies have occurred during the Christmas season. If it wasn’t for this part of the trifecta, I could handle the rest, much like you do. I could handle the hypocrisy, because I recognize that not everybody is like this; hence, I would focus on the good, and not the bad. I would also just grit my teeth through the unpleasant holiday shopping rush, because the gift (and the thought behind it) is what counts.

Yet, when you begin to suffer from nonspecific, generalized anxiety as the calendar advances, all because your experiences have conditioned your biological processes to brace yourself, it makes enduring the rest of what is supposed to be a “joyous” time simply beyond endurance. If Christmas is all about the spirit of sharing, then all of us who hate Christmas are in the sharing-spirit too: we share a biological conditioning to hate Christmas.

It’s not just the absence of family, or the lack of gifts, or the impoverished conditions, or so many other hardships of life that makes this holiday particularly rough, since those things happen irrespective of the calendar date. No, it is the presentation that one should be “joyous” because of these things. Unlike Thanksgiving, which is a single, merciful day to be “thankful” for things you don’t have, Christmas is an entire season to be “joyous” for the things you don’t have.

And if you don’t have it? Well, you need to learn to put on a good mask and fake it, since exposing your hurt will only cause others to shun you even more, due to your depressing atmosphere. You must avoid this above all else, because loneliness is your worst enemy during this time. You see, those who have these things are also busy enjoying them, which means, by default, that you are forgotten. It’s not on purpose; it’s just a fact.  For those without anyone significant in their life (either through loss or proximity), this time of the year is, without a doubt, the absolute loneliest time of the year. It can even be lethal.

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Okay, so that was a bit of a Debbie-downer. But I had to set the tone for a couple of positive tidbits that I hope you take as suggestions moving forward.

This year, unlike many others, wasn’t that bad for me. Although I had to work through my generalized anxiety the entire season (biological programming only fades through time and patience), I had nothing to be anxious about. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have much to be thankful for nowadays. Nothing bad happened, in spite of my emotions warning me otherwise. I don’t have much, but at least I’m not threatened with losing what little I have.

As for the actual day of Christmas itself, I have a reason to be joyous. I have a friend.

Specifically, a friend who knows enough about the pain of suffering from personal experience. He uses his current blessings on behalf of others to give them a boost on the road of life. He remembered me in the midst of the turmoil of the holiday season (there was more than one, another blessing), and invited me to join his family, along with some of his friends and a few others who share my situation, for a Christmas party hosted on Christmas Day. He could have done what most of us do on this day, keeping the day sacred for family only. Instead, he and his wife open their home to others, calling them “family” as well. I’m blessed to be numbered among them.

As I wrote this, something occurred to me. Yes, I hate Christmas. And yes, there are others that hate it too, for many of the same reasons. Yet, what have I done this year to help ease the suffering of someone else? I’m not the only lonely one out there. What did I do to help someone else’s loneliness?  Ashamedly, I must admit: not much. I took a bunker mentality, hiding and waiting for the season to pass. Although it is understandable considering what I’ve been through (and I don’t believe in hammering one’s self with guilt), shouldn’t I be taking the focus off of my self, and helping another?

Isn’t that part of the core of the Christmas message?

So, before you sit down for that wonderful Christmas feast you are preparing this afternoon, I would like to implore you to do something very small that will mean a lot to someone else. Set-up an extra chair. Think of someone you know that might be lonely today, even though they haven’t said it. Then call them. Invite them. Unless they have a very specific plan for Christmas (and make them convince you with details!), don’t take “no” for an answer. Pick them up, if you have too. Tell them what it means to you. Do whatever you have too.

Give them the gift of a reason not to hate Christmas anymore.