Saturday, December 28, 2013

Why I hate Christmas

Why I love Christmas

by Peter Olsen

I wrote this five years ago to the day, just for myself, and no one has ever laid eyes on it until now.  I guess it was just waiting for the blog to be invented:

December 26, 2008

How could someone who loved Christmas so much as a kid grow up to resent it so completely as a grownup? Actually, being a late bloomer in all things, I didn’t learn to despise it until recently. Before that I didn’t hate it, I just felt let down by it. It was depressing to me just for what it wasn’t, anymore: full of wonder, anticipation, joy, innocence – all the clich├ęs – not to mention snow (even in Minnesota – thank you Climate Change!). But now it seems to be the opposite of all it’s purported to be and nothing better than a dark cloud of doom, anxiety, and unmet expectations that I still cling to, feebly, in the face of evidence to the contrary, and knowing better from experience, after all these years. I just survived my 47th Christmas. And I feel like hell. Mostly because I know how good it could be. Used to be.

This year I managed to miss out on nearly every single one of the few things that make the season what it’s supposed to be: holiday parties. Office parties, open houses, the gatherings where once a year you get together with the people whose paths you cross throughout the year as a matter of course and for once you stop and step out of your everyday hunkered-down identity and seem to say to each other “Here we are again at the end of another year of this game we try to get through successfully (whatever that means) called Life but we won’t worry about that or gift shopping or taxes tonight it’s good to see you let’s have a drink and forget about all the rest and Cheers, I actually like you!

Why did I miss out on every party? Because I was trying to get the other stuff done. I was worrying about the GIFTS. I was pulling veritable all-nighters trying to get it all together. I happen to like giving gifts that have some meaning for both myself and the person to whom I am giving. It literally depresses me to think about giving something ‘gifty’ – the bar of scented soap or candle or ornament or whatever. Even though I know these things can be very much appreciated, it just feels empty to me. It says nothing about our friendship or relationship or the year that just passed or our hopes for the future. Not that it has to do all that but I feel it MUST have something to do with the two of US, giver and receiver, whoever we are.

So admittedly, I put a lot of pressure on myself which I can’t possibly live up to and never do. So why? And why give something to someone who you don’t really know? You can love someone, a second cousin you’ve known all your life, say, but still not really know their taste in music or food or literature. So what’s the point in trying to improve their life somehow with something material? Yes it’s the thought that counts but why waste time and money and resources (wrapping paper, Scotch tape, trees and landfill space, air quality) for a thought? Make a toast to them instead!

The only thing worse than giving a meaningless gift is receiving one. Not because I am disappointed to not get a great new ‘thing’ but because I just feel bad. I feel bad that someone has spent a lot of effort trying to figure out who I am and what I would like and I must be some kind of bastard for not liking what they thought I would like and going to a lot of trouble to find and buy and wrap it for me.

What do I love about Christmas? I love the dead quiet of a heavy snowfall, when everything outside is the same blue-grey color, except the Christmas lights. Everything is diffused in the snow and the sounds are muffled, the scrapes of a neighbor shoveling the sidewalk, the whine of someone’s tires spinning on the ice, the thunder of the plow scraping by. I love when such weather is barely navigable but people come out anyway because they’re Minnesotans and they know how to get around in this stuff and there’s so few other people on the roads anyway. And they want to be warm with their friends. They just have to make it over to our house and not slip on the ice on the front steps (the glacier that salt cannot erode…) and throw their coats on the bed and we’ll slip that mug of glogg into their hands their cheeks will be rosy and the smiles bouncing off one another (“whew your nose is cold on my cheek!”).

White Christmas at the Olsen house 2013
And I love that my cousin Renee told me how much she loves that seemingly useless, generic, could-have-been-for-anyone trinket I gave her last year, and how useful it’s been.

The End

Not quite a Scrooge-caliber transformation, but … Watch this and if it doesn't overwhelm you with Christmas spirit and make you whimper like a little girl as I did, then your name must be Ebenezer. Ebenezer before this happened: