Scrooge You: not everyone loves Christmas

Allyson Kenning
By Allyson Kenning
December 1st, 2010

So it’s December first today and on Saturday there is going to be a sizable Christmas event in the town square, an event meant to “rekindle” our Christmas spirits. A tree will be lit. I think there will be fire involved, but I don’t really know what else is happening because I don’t plan on attending.
Let me state outright that I am not a Grinch or a Scrooge. Really, I’m not. I am however, one of those people out there – and there are more of us than many might realize – that finds Christmas to be a very trying time. In my case, I loathe this time of year and would frankly be quite happy if I could skip this holiday altogether, perhaps replacing it with a few days of Pancake Tuesdays.
For me, Christmas is extremely emotionally burdensome. I associate it with a lot of loss, isolation, pain, guilt, and stress – with a healthy dose of expectation thrown in for good measure.  My family is excellent about not throwing a lot of expectations at me during this time, and for that I am very grateful; they get that this is hard for me, and they know that I do what I can and they accept that I have to set some unusual boundaries. The expectations I feel, though, come from society in general.
Christmas is the most hyped event of the year in our culture. There is an assumption on the part of our culture that, unless we are otherwise inclined on a religious level, we are going to participate in Christmas because it’s the best time of year. The festivities, the advertising, the decorating, everything, is ramped up so much that it is inescapable. And with that comes the assumption that if, for some reason, you have issues with Christmas, as I do, there is something wrong with you.
“You hate Christmas? How can you hate Christmas? It’s fun, it’s festive, it’s sparkly! You hate Christmas parties? You don’t put up a tree? You don’t own a single Christmas ornament? ARE YOU CRAZY?”
The last time I checked, I came up negative for craziness, and believe me, my cat, Juno, would like nothing better than to have me put up a tree for her to play with. She also enjoys a nice cozy tree skirt. However, because of the emotional burden I feel at this time of year, I find it necessary to withdraw from the festivities in order to protect myself from feeling all the negative stuff I inevitably feel at this time of year.
Withdrawing means various things. It means I don’t participate in the shopping frenzy. While that feeds into my cycle of guilt, I cannot handle holiday crowds, and I feel like throwing a hissy fit when I have to stand in long line-ups at stores, listening to crappy renditions of Christmas carols just to buy some basic groceries. The high stimulation environment of stores is very difficult for me to cope with. Colour and sparkle are nice, and I do tear up a bit when I hear a nice version of “Once in Royal David’s City” (the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, does a beautiful version, I must say), but if you have lights flashing all over the place, too many stressed shoppers crammed into a small space taking forever to go through a check-out because their carts are practically collapsing with stuff, coupled with pop stars whining out “Jingle Bell Rock”, that is a recipe for crazy-making in my world.
Withdrawing sometimes avoiding family events. I have been known to consciously choose to spend Christmas Day alone. Large family gatherings are for me far too emotionally charged to be worth the effort. Instead, I have opted for a couch day with my favourite foods around me and a pile of DVDs. I’d like to think Juno enjoys this too.
Withdrawing has also meant that I find different ways of getting my needs met. In addition to sometimes choosing to spend the Big Day alone, I have also chosen to start a new family tradition: my annual Solstice Feast. This I enjoy very much. It’s partially a gift to my family, since I prepare, I must say, a restaurant-quality meal with all the bells & whistles for my immediate family and some extended family I am very close to. This gives me the opportunity to treat the people I love to something I take a lot of pride in – my cooking and baking – and I get to spend quality time with the people who mean the most to me without putting myself in the aforementioned emotionally charged large family situation. Usually, Solstice consists of six or seven people, which is perfect for me. I love December 21.
And I do love baking; most of the gifts I give come from my own kitchen, and I enjoy filling my house with wonderful aromas and I enjoy it when recipients of my cookie tins are delighted with what they find in them.
So, I’m not a total Christmas hater, I guess. I just resent a lot of the attitude I get from people around this time of year when I express how taxing this holiday is for me. I hear a lot of that dreaded ‘S’ word: should. I have had so many lectures peppered with this S word over the years it’s not funny. Instead, what I’d like to hear more of is that ‘A’ word: acceptance. I wish more people could just accept that not everyone associates Christmas with magically wonderful things. I wish fewer people would try to convince me that I “should” try to get into this holiday, that I “should” try to enjoy it, that I “should” make an effort to cast off the past and be merry and bright. I wish that more people would take off their blinders and just ACCEPT that Christmas is hard for a lot of people for a lot of complicated reasons.
Because it’s very easy to label someone who has anti-Christmas sentiments like I do as a Grinch or a Scrooge. It’s much harder to ask why. Even Scrooge had his reasons, after all. But if this is the time of generosity we all purport Christmas to be, be generous with your thinking, too, and consider that A word a little more when you encounter someone who might not be having a jolly time this season.

Categories: Op/Ed

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