Dec 16, 2021
Christmas makes me crazy. Just going to say it. Every year, I try to trick myself into believing it will be different. I will enjoy the processes. I enjoy some of them. Th music and tree decorating. I will be happy to see everyone. And I am. I am also just one of those people who absorbs all the energy in the room—and it is overwhelming. I love hanging out in small groups, but if you get more than 6-8 people in a room, I start to glaze over—all my circuits are overloaded with incoming sensory information.
Over the years, I’ve tried to dissect exactly what irritates me about the season. There is the extra work and responsibility, a lot of which falls to women: the planning, the scheduling, the shopping, the cooking, the baking, the hostess gifts, the cards, the wrapping. Most of our efforts go unrecognized. All of this is in addition to regular commitments. We never take anything off our plates when we take on the additional holiday chores. I imagine that when we were an agrarian society, this used to be a downtime in production, but not anymore. We need to work harder to get our numbers up by year’s end—whatever “numbers” means in your particular industry.
And, too, I am put off by all the Hallmark Christmas movies and their message of love and magical transformation during the holiday season. It rings false. Like, why are we supposed to be more loving toward our neighbors at this time of year? It kind of reminds me of my dad’s stories of how my grandfather was helped out of a jam by a Mason because my grandfather also was a Mason. Can’t we just help people because it is the kind thing to do, not just for what club they belong to or because we flip a calendar page to December? And this whole idea of Christmas miracles? Why is this the time of year for miracles above all other times of the year?
People want Christmas to be about transformation. And maybe they think they can make that happen by peddling the idea of magic. Elf on a Shelf, anyone? Here is what I think: December could be magical time of the year, but for reasons that go against the seasonal practices our culture has adopted. Now is the time of the year in the Northern Hemisphere when it gets dark early and temperatures plummet. If we followed our natural rhythms, we would give into sluggishness, slow down, stay closer to our hearths, snuggle up in our family pods, eat less, honor the downtime, go to bed early, deign to be bored. We would gaze at our fires, read novels, take time to reflect, put puzzles together, play board games, journal---go deep down to the place where the seeds of transformation are buried. Then, and only after taking part in abstention, deep rest, and inner contemplation—then we could celebrate a “birth”, the possibility of newness and transformation and light and returning energy and--ta-da--miracles.
But to expect magic out of a season that has us running to-and-fro, mired down in one activity after another, with manic to-do lists, heavy consumption of foods and goods, financial strain, not to mention competitions to see who can best light up the neighborhood (eradicating all the magic-inducing darkness) seems counterintuitive at best and destructive at worst.
I think, for me, to enjoy this season, I need to lean into doing less, not more. Slow down. Eat by candlelight. Find stillness. Meditate. Walk instead of run. Drink and eat less. Sleep more. If I did all that leading up to Christmas week, I could perhaps, actually enjoy the contrast of a bit of revelry. Is it likely that I will resist the pull of our society to buy and do and eat and drink and sparkle and shine? Last year I came close, with all the COVID shut downs. But this year, I let myself be carried away on the waves of expectation--again. On top of that, I have added being a vendor—as in peddling my art in earnest--to the whole equation. Yes, I have become the person who pushes others to enter the fray. Because. Art. If I put in the effort with my business in these, the most commercial of months, I can shore up enough financial reserves to do what I love the other ten or so months of the year. It is part of the phenomenon I described earlier as “getting our numbers up.” Forgive me my duality. And forgive me my seasonal curmudgeonliness. My season of miracles will have to wait until January, which, in its spare nothingness, has become one of my favorite months of the year.