Christmas time… again.
I struggle with Christmas more and more as each year comes and goes. I always want it to be something magical. Not about the buying and giving of Stuff, or the exhausting pace of trying to cram too many dutiful visits into a short stretch of time. The pressure is huge to have a GOOD TIME and feel all warm and fuzzy. It wearies me.
Family dynamics play a big part in whether one enjoys Christmas or not. For the most part, my family and I are relatively remote (pardon the awful pun.) I have no grandparents or aunts and uncles left, my cousins are mostly strangers to me, and my more immediate family are all living in their own little bubbles (as am I). There are a handful of exceptions: I am very close to my mother, and one of my three older brothers and his daughter do keep up a consistent connection. I’m not sure why it has to be this way without getting into a lot of intimate family head-shrinking and analysis. It is what it is.
Since my parents are elderly and now living in a condo, the hosting of the ‘holiday family gathering’ (and frankly the only time I ever see most of them) is a quietly contentious issue. Everyone waits for someone else to step forward. No one ever does until the pressure builds to the boiling point at the last minute, and then there is a simmering unvoiced resentment if you can’t make it due to other plans. I am single, don’t drive and live in a small town at some distance from everyone. During the off-season, getting to my parent’s city by public transport is a day-long tedium of mixed buses, taxis and trains. Throw in the date of December 24th or 25th and the nightmare is compounded a thousandfold. Weather can also be dicey, as I live in a snow-belt.
The stress of it all starts about now and lasts into the New Year. I’m hoping- whoever bothers to host (and I am not set-up to do so, and am furthest away of all the clan)- that I can get a ride with a friend so at least I see my Mom. I have a horror of spending Christmas Day alone. There is a kid in me who wants a beautiful tree with amazing decorations, a table laden with a feast and happy faces to share it all with me. The reality is never close to that sort of fun, and the effort to make it happen at all is exhausting.
Don’t feel too down: these are just my personal seasonal demons, and I’ll cope. I always manage somehow to have some great times with friends, enjoy a feast and do something charitable. I just wish it didn’t feel like something we have to do, and always on other people’s terms. I try to treat others well all year long. I want nothing more than to let go of past regrets, and just rise above social pressures and family politics.
For all that, there is a tradition I hold dear. The best of all Christmas stories is a British ghost story. Every year I make sure to read it, or attend a public reading of it, and watch the brilliant black and white Alastair Sim film version. No colorization please! No lame ‘updated’ movies with Jim Carrey or what have you! If you have never read the original, do yourself an enormous favour and get yourself a copy. This quote really captures it all:
“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”
– A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
Ruth Barrett is the author of a ghost story too! ‘Base Spirits’ is available as an e-book here:
Ruth kindly gifted me a copy of ‘Base Spirits’ for Christmas and I can’t wait to read it!
Come back tomorrow for the wonderfully talented and equally weird Kealan Patrick Burke!
- Thirteen ghosts: A collection of spooky tales for Halloween (Part One) (sapphicscribe.wordpress.com)