The closer it gets to Christmas, the worse my mood gets.
For some reason, this year this is truer than usual.
Part of it is the enforced cheerfulness. "It's Christmas," people say, "You should be happy. It's the most wonderful time of the year." (Stupid Christmas
A lot of it is all the Christmas ads on television, that keep up the constant drumbeat of, "It's Christmas, spend lots of money" along with the moans from retailers that "People aren't spending enough money, spend more money or we'll go broke."
And then there are the "War Against Christmas" folks who get pissed off if you wish them Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, and who insist that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season." Which, if they've read their history, they would know clearly isn't true. But I won't bore you with why this year is a time for celebration, historically speaking. Jesus was born in the spring, if you take the time to read the Bible and it's descriptions of his birth. Never mind, I said I wouldn't belabor this point.
In my family, sure we had presents and dinner with the family and a tree and Christmas cards and all the rest. I was in the church Christmas play when I was five years old...and, oh, what a night that was. It was so foggy out when it was time to go to the church...This church, in fact, which is now a theater...
Well, the porticoes weren't there, then, and the blue paint wasn't there, but otherwise the building looks very much the same. Anyway, it was so foggy that we could barely find the building. When we stopped to pick my grandmother up, my dad parked out on the shoulder by the street rather than going down her long driveway and walked her out to the car. As they got in the car, he made the offhand remark, "Wouldn't it be interesting if it was clear by the time we get out of the program?" Yeah, right, Dad. We all laughed. But, while we were in the basement of the church having the program (which I barely remember), the East Wind had come up and it was cold and clear as a bell. And so, that nearly Christmas night entered the family legend regarding Christmas.
Later on, after my mother got tired of nearly always having to have the family Christmas dinner at our house, we instituted a new tradition: Just the immediate family - my mom and dad and me - would get up on Christmas morning, have breakfast (by that time, we had started doing presents on Christmas Eve) and then go for a long (and by long, I mean all day) drive, and eat Christmas dinner at a restaurant along the way. That usually ended up being Denny's, but that was fine. The family was spending time together. Or, we wouldn't go on as long a drive, we'd eat out anyway, and go to a movie. Which was also fun.
But then my dad died, and we moved away from Southern California, and Christmas wasn't so much fun any more. There was still my mom's birthday, which was on Christmas Eve, and we always did something special for that. But Christmas just wasn't the event it used to be.
And then five years ago, at the beginning of December, my mother died. And now, I start feeling sad around the anniversary of that, and there's no family to do Christmas with (and no money to do it with, either, since I lost my job two years ago, again, just before Christmas), and its just no fun at all.
Because that's what Christmas is about according to how I was raised - family. Not buying increasingly expensive gifts. Not being ideologically religious. Just, spending family time and enjoying each other's company, and doing something fun, and being nice to others...for years after my dad died, the most fun of Christmas was Mom and me being the fattening fairies and spreading calories in the form of Christmas cookies and candy all over the place. Yeah, being nice to others even if everyone else was out there elbowing you out of the way to get that last Christmas bargain before the shops closed on Christmas Eve.
So...I'm sorry for being such a downer so close to Christmas. It's just a hard time of year for me these days. But, could you do me a favor? Try to do something nice for somebody, just once every day until Christmas. Let that car into traffic, even though they wanted until the last minute to merge when their lane ended. Say please and thank you to some poor overworked retail employee (who is very possibly only temporary, making minimum wage, has had ten or twelve people yell at them already since they got out of bed this morning, and is looking at the prospect of having to look for another job as soon as the holiday rush is over). Let the other person have the gift item that you both put your hands on at the same time and is the last of its kind on the shelf. Because, you know, the other thing Christmas is about, besides family, is giving...but giving isn't just overpaying for a gift and putting it in fancy paper that is just going to get ripped off the box and thrown away on Christmas morning.
The best gift you can give, I think, is making someone's day a little more pleasant. And the beautiful thing about that? It doesn't cost a thing besides a little effort and the determination to be a little nicer. It's something you can do every day, all year long.
And that is the gift that keeps on giving.
I'll try to be in a better mood tomorrow. I promise.