I always get horrible looks when I confess that I truly hate Christmas. It’s so unChristian, so unAmerican of me. I just have never enjoyed this month. It passes by too slowly for me. The only good thing about it is that it isn’t January, which here in the Pacific Northwest feels like an excruciatingly long month spent in a dark, wet, foggy hell.
In defense of myself, Americans did not invent Christmas. Neither did Christians. The origins of the holiday date back to ancient times and are tied to Mithra and Saturnalia. So, please forgive me as a follower of Christ if I choose to not enjoy this most “Christian” holiday spent celebrating Saturnalia. It just seems like so much hypocrisy to me.
And, hypocrisy is why I really hate Christmas.
My mother typically didn’t do laundry. We sniffed the piles that accumulated up and down the hallway to find the least stinky items to wear to school. On the holidays though we were primped and preened and dressed in only the finest from the nicest, most expensive store in town. We had to look our best as we were paraded from one holiday party to the next. We had to convince everyone that we were well taken care of.
Year around our domicile was not decorated with cutesy, homemade crafts that make a house a home. In fact, the walls were pretty bare. However, every November the dining and coffee tables couldn’t be found for all of the gold and silver glitter, the wax candle making supplies, the paints, Styrofoam forms, and carefully folded paper. She became the craft queen churning out lovely handmade gifts for friends and family. They had to believe that’s just the sort of thing she always loved to do.
Every Christmas Eve we were allowed to open one gift late in the afternoon. It was the expensive new outfit that was to be worn that night. We were scrubbed, and our hair was smoothed into place with tons of pink, gelatinous Dippity-Do. We then sat and waited. I was unable to move for fear I’d put a run in my matching tights with my nervously chewed off fingernails or that my curls would crack and break free from their pink, gooey prison.
Hours drug by slowly as we waited for Daddy to come home from work. Of course, when he did arrive he was plastered and had to sleep it off a little before we could make the rounds, pretending to be the quintessential nuclear family.
First stop was always my dad’s family. They are early to bed, early to rise types, so everything was done and over by 8. I hated going there. I didn’t like Grandma’s food any more than she liked me. She made her distaste for me evident and seemed to take delight in adoring my little brother and one cousin while looking at me. It was as if she wanted to be certain I was noticing that she was loving them in a way she never had and never would love me. I noticed.
Her house was beautiful. Her tree was magnificent. All five of her children, along with their children, were always there. Her table was elaborately set. It was a scene from a women’s magazine. The undertones of hatred of certain children, racial prejudice, misogyny, adultery, and drunkenness were ignored and covered by painted on smiles and false claims of a twisted version of Christianity.
I was always relieved to get out of there and take the long drive to the little town (more like a congestion) where I now live. My maternal grandparents were waiting, all alone, for their late arrivals. The house was old and dilapidated. The back porch was freezing cold, and the small living area was too hot and smelled funny, like burning petroleum. It looked more like a Christmas at The Little House in the Big Woods than anything you’d see in Better Homes and Gardens.
Their trees were always small and resembled Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree with a grotesque amount of tinsel hanging from it. There were cheap paper plates on the table with fudge that softened from the heat of the oil stove. They gave us practical gifts like socks. Nothing fancy, plain and simple, but warm and honest.
When I got married I tried very hard to make the holidays special. Unlike my own mother, I do like to craft and sew and bake. I made matching stockings for our new little family. I baked Christmas cookies and played Christmas music while we decorated our large tree. I cooked and tried hard to fit in with my husband’s family. I made brunch and hosted my family Christmas morning since we’d spent Christmas Eve with his side.
Christmas Eve with his family would have been shocking even for someone who loves lights, tinsel, and gifts. In coming years I would refer to it as the H family raping of the tree. It was almost violent. There was thrashing and yelling. No one listened to anyone else. Paper was thrown in the air, and no one even knew who had given them what gift. It was a drunken, indulgent frenzy, much like the accounts of ancient midwinter celebrations. And, they lived for it. In their minds, they were a Normal Rockwell painting. Half of them didn’t speak to each other, or at least they all bad mouthed each other, all year long, but Christmas is for family time and they pretended with the best of them.
I’m a little on the tight side. I’d rather not spend money if I don’t have to, and wastefulness actually physically pains me. So, watching people go in debt to “have a good Christmas” and buying for people they hate because “it’s the Christmas spirit” irks me.
I’d rather see everyone lay the hypocrisy down. Be honest and say that they don’t like someone, they don’t have the money to buy all of those gifts, or they don’t like their own children or spouses and would rather get drunk with a coworker than spend an evening with their “loved ones.”
I guess I’m the original Scrooge. However, the Little Timmies are getting to me; it started last year and continued this weekend.
To Be Continued…………………