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Hating Christmas…except in 2020

Normally, the holidays aren’t so great for me. First off, there are bad memories associated with Christmas: growing up poor, broken families, getting dumped by my boyfriend, trying to commit suicide…the list goes on. When I go visit my husband’s family during the holidays and sit down for their traditional prime rib dinner, I am reminded of the year my family was so broke we couldn’t afford a turkey for Thanksgiving and we ate venison from the deer my Dad had shot that hunting season.

The holidays bring out the worst in people and the best piece of evidence of this is every big box retail store turning into the fourth circle of Hell—including the store I work at. Customers get greedy and become upset Karens if you run out of anything, especially a new generation of consoles or phones. Corporations play into this by making lucrative Black Friday sales bleed into Thanksgiving when workers could be spending time with their families and every year the sale creep up earlier than the previous year.

I despise Christmas music. From the stroke of midnight on November 1st to the end of my shift on December 24th, I have to listen to Christmas music on the store radio 32-40 hours out of week in 8 hour shifts. The only Christmas music that I fully enjoy and subsides my urge to burn every Mariah Carey Christmas album on Earth is “Mele Kalikimaka”, “I Wish It Was Christmas Today” (the SNL versions), and anything Hanson has recorded over two Christmas albums (they made a good song about a completely non-sense word so it’s not surprising they made Christmas music sound catchy). Maybe I can stand some of the older stuff, but I can only stand to hear Bing Crosby’s “Happy Holidays” or the Charlie Brown Christmas theme before I want to bang my head against a wall.

Even without my bad memories, working retail, and my loathing of Christmas music, the holidays are still stressful. Everyone who celebrates Christmas has this image of the perfect Christmas and planning out the holidays to achieve this ideal Christmas is always overbearing. Every year, my husband always overloads me with presents to make up for all the crappy Christmas’s I have and I always feel bad that I’m unable to give him as much. And every time I have to go spend the holidays with the in-laws and my sister-in-law is there, I can always bet on her deciding she needs to invite over a friend so they can get drunk in the fully stocked basement bar without any regard for the other people in the house. If I wanted to deal with two drunks being obnoxious and playing horrible music so loudly you can hear it on the other side of the house, I would just spend Christmas with my real mother and her boyfriend.

I don’t like Christmas, but I guess I don’t completely hate it either. I love riding around to look at the Christmas lights people have put up on their houses or going to the city to see the lights the rotary club put up in the park. I kind of like those dumb Christmas sweaters—I have a light up one with the Grinch on it. I like drinking hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows out of the Kiki’s Delivery Service mug my husband bought for me for the purpose of drinking cocoa. I like donating my time or money to a charity or two as a kind of repayment for all the years my family had relied on a box of food and presents from a local charity. Every year, I make the cheeseball my mother used to make, which is one of the very few good memories I have of her. I even have an image of the perfect Christmas and it doesn’t involve forgoing the holiday all together: spending it with my husband or maybe a couple of friends and watch Christmas cartoons while eating a bucket of KFC.  

I really try to enjoy Christmas for the sake of my husband, who is basically a real like version of Clark Griswold from Christmas Vacation. But at some point, the combination of bad memories, my job turning into holiday Hell, and the general stress of the holidays while trying to manage my depression and anxiety gets the better of me. I end up turning into the Grinch. To be fair, he really didn’t hate Christmas, but greedy people and all the things they get for Christmas.  

Strangely, this year hasn’t been so bad. I’m not exactly sure what it is. Maybe its 2020 being such a shit show that Christmas seems kind of pleasurable in comparison. Maybe it was being in quarantine for a good chunk of December and not being around work for the chaos and Christmas music. Maybe I was possessed by the spirit of Christmas. For whatever reason, Christmas wasn’t terrible. We put up the tree and I didn’t get frustrated putting on my portion of the ornaments—in fact, I was kind of excited about it. I didn’t mind when my husband would ask for a second opinion on yet another light up decoration for our front window. For the first time in my entire retail career, I had Thanksgiving off (I didn’t even have to bargain my soul for the privilege) and had an actual Thanksgiving family dinner with my in-laws, which was great with the exception of my sister in law drinking way too many kamikaze martinis with her friend. I got the quilt I had been putting off for eight years done and was finally able to give it to my husband as a Christmas present. I got the two new consoles for Christmas so I can play the new Horizon, Resident Evil, and Hellblade games when they come out. We had Christmas with the in-laws and it was pretty enjoyable. Everyone loved the cheeseball. My husband and I decided to make a mincemeat pie for his grandparents, who spoke about not being able to find them anymore unless you special order one from the one place that makes them, and it turned out pretty good. For once, the traditional holiday dinner of prime rib didn’t remind me of my poverty roots. Perhaps the only thing about the holiday I regret is not being able to spend the holidays with my dad—quarantine had ruined our plans to spend time with each other and even after getting out of quarantine we didn’t want to risk Dad getting sick due to his heart problems. It feels very weird that Christmas didn’t suck. I feel like I did when I first started working with a doctor to get my depression and anxiety under control three years ago—I had felt so shitty for so long that I couldn’t remember what it felt like not to be anxious and depressed and it felt odd when I started feeling better. It wasn’t like I was over the top happy like Pinky Pie from My Little Pony, but my depression and anxiety had lessened to the point where I felt like what most people would consider “normal”. It feels the same with the holidays: I had so many bad Christmas seasons that I don’t know what it feels like to actually enjoy it and finding myself content with it for the most part is strange.

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