For a change

My parents didn’t really like Christmas. Oh, they certainly claimed to, but when the season was done, its closure was met with an overwhelming sense of relief, as if a period of misery and suffering had come to a close. Over the years I encountered more and more people who feel that way.

I know a small handful who seem to genuinely enjoy the season, but they’re really quite astonishingly rare.

However happy many people profess to be at Christmas-time, they’re definitely even happier when it is over. Everyone encourages you to participate, to “get in the spirit” and “Oh, you’ve got to celebrate Christmas! Everybody loves Christmas!” but to see them actually approaching it themselves, they behave like they’re facing a forced march through the Simpson desert, or are crawling on their bellies across broken glass.

They complain that everything is an obligation, an imposition; the travel, the shopping, visiting people they don’t get along with, and don’t want to see – and at the same time, they talk about the happiness and magic and spirit of Christmas, in the sort of voice that suggests that they would rather be taking some particularly nasty poison – or perhaps already have.

Should they discover that you’re a non-participant in the whole Christmas deal, they’ll try to convince you to become a part of it. It comes across a bit like a drowning man trying to market ocean cruises.

It’s a move of desperation. If you can opt out, then they could have done so at any time – but they didn’t. Pulling you into what they feel is their whirling vortex of suffering supports the illusion that there isn’t a choice, and they’ve not just been miserable needlessly all of these years.

It’s quite sad, and each year’s bad experiences seem somehow to make things worse for them.

If you’ve got the choice, however, you’re probably in the best position to actually enjoy the season. Knowing that you can opt-in or opt-out any year without excessive guilt over obligations does a lot to ease the burdens of the season. You might actually even end up enjoying Christmas for a change.

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Categories: Culture, Opinion.

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