Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ah ... Christmas (oh ... and Happy Festivus)

I do a lot of thinking - about the world, about myself, about how I fit into the world. And I've realized that I absolutely LOVE to learn. But not just about history or science, although those thrill me, too ... I love to learn about how I fit into the world. This is where I get my passion for life, even when I'm not feeling terrific. I love to realize something about myself ..... like realizing that I love to realize something about myself. It's like the main purpose of my life is to get reacquainted with me. And the world. Because I become thrilled when I learn something new about the world, too.

As a continuation of that, I assume that other people are the same, and I like to share my realizations - because I like to hear about theirs, too (it often sets off a realization in me) - and so ... THE BLOG! (read like THE BLOB! --- because it's funny). My blog is really like a diary. And maybe it would be better to keep all this crap to myself. But it seems right to write it all and share it. So I do.

So with all of that in mind, I came to a realization last night. It always amazes me that after 42 years on this planet, I can become aware of thought patterns I've not been aware of before. Perhaps "not been aware of" is the wrong terminology. It may be more accurate to say "I had not admitted to myself before". Because I've always known it but never admitted it: Christmas day is a downer to me.

After coming to a realization such as this, I must ponder: "Why? How did this come to be? How can I make sense of this? Because Christmas is a day we all look forward to and are supposed to love. So why is the day a downer?" And I do look forward to it. Whether it involves a road trip to see family or a day spent with friends at home, I get very excited and usually have great Christmas Spirit (this year is an exception, but I'll get to that later). So how can I look forward to it so much and still find it to be a downer?

I wonder whether it is old patterns developed because of the presents when we were kids. As a child I looked forward to the presents so much (of course - every child does when there is a promise of presents). Our family would stretch present-opening out as long as we could with each person opening one present at a time and everyone else watching. There was no free-for-all where paper got ripped and torn and a blizzard of wrappings ensued. Especially when my grandmother was alive and took every piece of tape off of every piece of paper and carefully folded it for use the following year (yay Grandma! Now I'll be taking on that role). It was a respectful present opening and some years it would last a couple of hours.

But after the present opening it seemed we waited around in an anti-climactic stupor until supper - which, at different times in our lives included inviting as many people as we could possibly cram into our little kitchen (we didn't have a dining room) - sometimes my mother ate on a T.V. tray in the hall. Yes, our house was that small and any more than about 6 at our table was terribly uncomfortable. I think we had 14 once. I'm sure we played with our toys, and some years when I was younger, we would travel for an hour or so to have supper with my Aunt and Uncle and cousins which was always fun (until they moved too far away). Or we'd go 5 houses up the street to Grandma and Grandpa's place (until Grandpa died). Or we'd go to our other Uncle's place (when he was married to his 2nd wife - after that, if he spent Christmas with us it was at our house - but I don't recall his 3rd or 4th wife or any of the girlfriends in between being at our house more than once. We couldn't keep track of all their names).

Writing about it makes is sound like fun. And I'm quite sure it was. So why don't I like Christmas Day? I think it was because Christmas Day wasn't as much fun as the big build-up ... but I always expect it to be. There's nothing wrong with a big build-up. The big build-up is probably the best part of Christmas. Picking just the right present for each person and anticipating how much they are going to like it. Getting the decorations out and reliving all the memories as you put them on the tree. Making treats for everyone. It's a great time of the year.

Part of the problem this year is that I didn't participate in the build-up. I missed the best part. My wonderful husband loves Christmas to death, and was so excited this year that he found the perfect present for everyone. And good on him. He's enjoying his favourite time of the year. I didn't get on it, and he beat me to the punch. Two years ago I made a lot of the presents we gave to people. And it was probably the best Christmas I've had in the past 10 years ... because I participated! And the recipients loved the gifts. So I learned my lesson this year. I didn't participate and now the build up has been minor in my mind and I'm heading into the day that I find a downer without the big crescendo leading up to it.

So next year I'll get a jump on it. Halloween hits and I'll be thinking Christmas. If the day is going to be a downer, at least I'll have a big build-up beforehand. 'Cause that's the fun part. So look out, friends and family. Homemade presents again next year (maybe, because my mind could change in the next 12 months).

P.S. I think my reflections on Christmas are like reflections on any other part of life. We can love something and be disappointed in it all at the same time. As a matter of fact, there is good and bad in everything, and it is our perspective that determines how it plays out - we can choose to focus on whichever part we want. So I'm going to try to focus on the good for the next 3 days, and forget about the anti-climactic shit. Maybe my Christmas Day will be better this year without the lead-up to it.

I'll let you know.


  1. "We can love something and be disappointed in it all at the same time." :)

    I don't think you are alone in your feelings about the "let down". You can see it all around you. The closer you get to Christmas, the less patient people are in stores, on the roads, even at work. That being said, I most likely AM a contributing grouchy person in the stores, that discourteous driver and sharing more snark with my coworkers than usual. You see, I too love this holiday, (especially a homemade xmas) but as the big day draws nearer the more I realize I’ve set my standards far too high and don’t have a chance in hell of meeting them. 1 ticket on the downward spiral please. However, I’m easily pulled out of the fog by the ritual of the holiday meal (preparing it vs eating it), wrapping that perfect gift (and the smell of scotch tape), the zip of ribbons being coxed into bouncy curls, and the after dinner stroll with the dogs. Merry Christmas, Sandy. I’ll be thinking of you in your eco-friendly workshop next year soon after Halloween.

    Faking it until I make it

  2. Liz here...

    I read your post immediately after reading a short book by Will Ferguson called "Coal Dust Kisses: A Christmas Memoir". The author is Canadian and close to our age. It's quite humorous and poignant.

    And I agree; Christmas can be a let-down. I think we have let society over-consumerise it for us; I think it's an excellent idea for you to do home-made gifts next year. I only wish I enjoyed crafts... I'll be working on Keith's afghan for the next ten years, probably.

    Your Grandmother and my Mom are cut from the same cloth. I became quite adept at unwrapping gifts very quickly, without scissors, and keeping the wrapping paper intact. I lost the ability shortly after marriage; Keith's family did *not* keep the wrapping paper for next year's presents. Meanwhile, Mom still uses the same bow for Miriam's Christmas present that she has used for the past 42 years. At least I think she does; it's been a while since I was able to spend Christmas with them both.

    Enjoy the season as much as possible; we'll compare notes in a week or two.

    Merry Christmas!

  3. I enjoyed reading this post very much, Sandi. :) I can completely relate. I also love the build-up to Christmas, but sometimes catch myself thinking 'well, it's time for this to be over now.' Like all good things, it just can't go on and on and on (and sometimes with all the preparation, it feels like it does!), and there needs to be a climax, then a let-down (hehe, like sex). But the most important part about the actual Christmas Day is keeping that little spark representing the meaning of Christmas alive within you. All the rest (family, stresses, presents, food, etc.) needs the let-down to transition out of the build-up. I believe it is an important part of a healthy cycle, and maybe it's important to honor the 'downside' for what it is & how it's necessary. I have to say, I think my favorite day of Christmas is the first day after it's over, lol. There is such tranquility and a sense of closure.

    Love & Merry Christmas, my friend. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful insights. :)

  4. Shelly,
    I like your way of thinking - that there HAS to be a let-down. You're absolutely right. It's a cycle just like everything else. Thanks for the perspective.


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