Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

This is the extent of our decorations..and it's still 80 degrees..

This is the extent of our decorations..and it’s still 80 degrees..

The older I get, there are more sad associations build up around holidays. Especially this year because it’s 80 degrees, my nuclear family is a few thousand miles away, and hearts are broken all over my home state of Connecticut. The holidays just don’t feel as good and innocent as they did when I was little.

I remember being young and asking about Santa. I asked if he could get us anything, and my parents nodded, knowing that the huge box of markers I had in mind was already a done deal. I asked if he came to everyone’s house, they said he did. I asked why people who need money don’t just ask for it then, instead of presents. They didn’t have a good answer. Maybe they said the elves couldn’t make money in the North Pole, I’m not sure. I just remember that it seemed awfully unfair, but I didn’t stop believing just yet.

That’s the thing. The unfairness was harder to handle than disbelief, in some ways. It was awful, and yet there was nothing I could do. The elves can’t make money and toys don’t pay bills, so suffering would happen and my fleeting notion that I had solved the world’s poverty problem was thrown out the window.

The Difficulty of Grasping “It’s Just Unfair”

When it came to learning Santa was fake, it was far more simple. Okay, there is no Santa. Not a huge deal, I sorta saw it coming anyway. Being a big fan of magic, I was just happy that they taught my brain to believe in magic at all (Yes, that’s the kind of stuff I’d think about as a kid). It was harder to feel and hold the sadness and anger that I could get presents, but not get money to give to everyone that needed it.

Let’s go to the Connecticut tragedy for a second, because that feeds into this too. In the midst of conspiracy theories and extreme religious people saying that God planned it or something like that, I can’t help but feel like these mentalities are held by those trying to run from that feeling of how horrible it is that someone could do such a thing without being brainwashed or part of God’s master plan. Murder of innocent people is happening in so many places, so much of the time, and yet we can’t always picture it or feel sorrow. For me, it’s easy to picture a suburban Connecticut town in December right before Christmas; that was where I came from. Maybe if it happened in the high plains it would seem farther. But having the ability to visualize it and relate with the situation makes it feel more powerful to me, and I’m not going to feel guilty for that. I can use the high impact of the tragedy in my consciousness to lead to more empathy when I hear of the many deaths of children around the world, but the ones that are “close to home” are going to hit harder, I would imagine.  It’s just how it is.

Back to the holidays, though.

Sure Doesn’t Feel Like Christmas Time

It doesn’t feel like Christmas and I don’t know if it ever will. Even if I was with my family on the East Coast, there is less of that feeling. Perhaps the holiday joy gets deeper and less sparkly as we age. Maybe it gets grainy and raw, a holiday feeling that has Sam Elliot’s voice and the grumble of a diesel engine. Maybe it isn’t light and fluffy like movie snow, but resistant and firm like a wrought iron crowbar from hundreds of years ago, being dug up from the dust.

Who knows.

But it’s okay. It’s fine. It doesn’t need to be any certain way, it just has never quite dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t just “this year” that feels off. Maybe the holiday spirit has taken on a permanent new form for me. The amount of friends I have who have lost parents or people close to them is growing, my heart goes to them as the holidays roll around, and there is sadness. It’s not just about trying to wish hard enough for new markers or crochet a dozen last-minute scarves. It’s about realizing that the holidays are as much a trigger for pain for some  people I love as a reason to celebrate for others.

The Roots of the Magic Becoming Transparent

Part of it is the decorations and consumer-based nature of this beast.

Cute plush stockings are our only decoration this year, but I know that the places where they were made would probably make me a bit sick. There are so many illusions, all trying to support the idea of love, but distracting from it, too. Cut down trees, buy gifts, buy insane amounts of decorations. I imagine being in some faraway factory, bracing for the time when Americans go nuts for cheap treasures.

What am I saying here? I’m not quite sure. I am having a hard time thinking normal thoughts since the Connecticut shooting, and anything else seems rather trite. I wonder if other people are feeling the difference in holidays as they get older, and if this holiday season will feel like other holiday seasons to anyone who felt a connection to Connecticut and the other recent tragedies.

Are you having a good holiday season, whatever holidays it is that you celebrate?

Are you finding the joy in these times, even with the pain happening?

Do you feel like the holiday spirit changes as we get older, or does it change as a product of the times, with technology and blow-up decorations taking the place of hand-made presents and simple ornaments?

Any thoughts you have related to the above are completely welcome.

I hope you are all well!


27 thoughts on “Will it Ever Feel Like Christmas Again?

  1. I think you’re right on all levels….first and foremost on the minds of most American’s and many across the globe is the tragedy in CT, you can’t possibly not have a broken heart for those children, their families and all the people in that small town. My heart breaks for all of them.

    Second, I do believe that as you age how you look at Christmas and where you are in your life you find that expectations of the holiday change. And I will admit that I hate the blow-up air filled lawn decorations and I love old fashioned hand-made ornaments on the tree. Good old fashion tinsel over ropes of shiny garland. I would love a good old fashioned caroling party.

    As for gifts, if I said it once, I have said it to my family a gazillion times…I would rather have something that they made or a promisary note of time or an adventrue over anything store bought. I would rather everyone promise me a once a month “Family Sunday Dinner” get together rather than a sweater or pair of gloves that I can purchase myself.

    At my age, as a mom of grown children and a grandmother I want the gift of time, the gift of making new memories, the gift of family…..that’s what I asked Santa for this year.

    • I remember tinsel! It had the magical ability to get everywhere..
      I love your idea of the family dinner, and those types of gifts. They take time and energy just like a fancy present, but they are much more real, and they demand a level of presence that a present can’t offer, it’s so interesting. I’m so glad you stopped by Nancy, I hope that Santa brings all the lovely family dinners and family time that you want, and it reminds me that I really should call my grandma because that is all she ever wants also! 🙂

  2. Jen, I agree, this is definitely a different kind of holiday season….for me, it is the first one where I will not be able to have my children over for Christmas Eve, making baked stuffed shrimp and eggplant and putting our napkins on our heads because why would anyone put those pretty things on their laps?? I am struggling with not having stockings in the morning (although I hear Santa Clause delivers them via UPS)….and although I was a bit happy to not have to make a gagillion cookies this year, when I got the hint that I might have SOME people I could mail them to…well…last Saturday morning I have to admit I enjoyed every single minute of making my candy cane sugar cookies, my jelly prints, peanut butter blossoms and chinese chews….it made me feel like Christmas….and so this year I will be away in Florida getting our place ready so someday maybe we all can have time together there….in the meantime I am thankful for the gift of happy healthy children who grew up to be loving beautiful adults….good people….all a parent ever could hope for. My heart does hurt like everyone else here in CT….I feel like I have different glasses on now…I am guessing many feel like that, a realization of all the gifts we have, every day that we take for granted. What a gift these little angels gave us….and those heros, can not get those teachers out of my mind, how they did what they did. Yes, Christmas time will never be the same I am guessing….anyway, Jen, I think you are going through the transition in life where you move on from your old traditions of your mom and dad and family into the phase of life where you get to create your own traditions…a wonderful time of life once you deal with the loss….and anyway, you can still dress up like an Elf and have fun like I do!! Love you and will miss you….Thank God for technology!! We will plan a reunion one day soon : ) and we can put the napkins on our heads!!!

  3. I think the holiday spirit does change as you get older. For me, I can really see how commercial all the holidays are. Also working overseas, I meet people from all walks of life. Most cultures keep their families close. In the US we move as far away as we can. I think that plays into the spirit of the holiday being lost as well.

    Well I’m in Afghanistan now and will be for Christmas. I will be woking everyday except for my normal day off which is Friday. So it really does not feel like Christmas to me.

    • That’s an interesting point about families spreading out versus staying closer together, and the commercialism. The US has so many strange features.
      I’m sending you well wishes, hoping that even with the work, you continue to find joy expressing yourself with your blog. It’s good that at least all of the writers can come together in this cyberland to share space during this time, in a way.

  4. Nice post.
    Over the past couple of days a number of incredibly emotional posts and pieces have being engineered in regards to the tragic shootings in Connecticut. A number of posts have advertised certain thoughts and ideas, however, yours does not. I am sorry for your connection to the tragedy, but I think that maybe you should be proud that you were able to provide a post that talked about the awful shootings without creating a piece which inevitably attempted to rationalise the awfulness of this tragedy.
    In answer to your holiday spirit question, I believe that as we grow older, we naturally mature. As children, we look at the world with child like wonder, and like you said, it’s all magical, which is a fantastic way to describe such a feeling. However, when we grow older, we outgrow our original feelings and we realise that there really isn’t magic at all; it is nice, but it’s also repetitive. Often the same thing happens again and again and we know what to expect.
    For me it used to be something extraordinarily wonderful – the feeling was almost indescribable, and the excitement would ultimately render my appetite obsolete due to my anxiety to dig into the gifts to see what could be found. There was also the idea the night before about the man in the red suit and his numerous entourage of reindeer. Every sound upon the roof come Christmas Eve filled my mind with ideas of hooves and gorgeous animals.
    I felt betrayed when I realised the truth of the situation. My parents had brought me up with the idea to be truthful and honest – and I felt they had been hypocritical for creating such a fantastical fantasy. True, I did enjoy and appreciate the feeling I acquired from the beauty of such events, but it did make me wonder – if I ever had little kiddies – would I tell them the story of Santa – or would I tell them the story about the parents buying the presents?
    Today, Christmas is an excuse for me to spend mega-bucks on those that mean most to me and not give a damn about the economical ramifications from such madness; it is an excuse to crack a bunch of bon bons, because for reasons I cannot fathom I still gain excitement from that – even though most of the stuff inside them could be described with naughty words I will not use here; it is also an excuse to drink as much as I please without consequence; Christmas also presents to me the ability to realise that another year has come and gone; it makes me reminisce on those who will not be present at Christmas this year; it makes me think about those who I lost, and those who I will never see again; not quite the magical ideology I once felt.
    Hell, I don’t even bother putting up the decorations anymore; on one hand it was too much hassle for one event; on the other hand – it was not as though a huge assortment of people would come by and evaluate and appreciate any masterful decorative styles.
    I do adjunctively believe that times do change the Christmas spirit; the advancement of technology has ultimately rendered previous traditional occurrences moot. One new aspect I have found where I live is wrapping paper stalls; small facilities in shopping centres where people are paid to wrap the gifts for you; I always believed that part of the Christmas spirit was not just buying the gift, but wrapping it yourself, which would further exenterate the love and affection associated with the present.
    Personally however, I would like to believe that Christmas is what you make of it. Maybe it is a time to simply forget about the horrors of the year and take a good 20 something hours, and spend it with those who mean most to you.
    Cheers – Happy Chrissy!

    • Aw that warmed my heart right up! You’re right. It is what we make of it, like any day, except with more built-in excuses for enjoying abundance in all it’s forms, and for paying attention to love and the feeling of family during the shortest days of the year. I feel like that comment is its own beautiful blog post, very awesome and touching indeed!
      Happy Christmas to you too!

  5. I’d agree with you, and other comments. It isn’t just Christmas. As we get older we grow out of toys and sort of ‘wake up’ from our little lives to look around.
    As we become more aware of the world we can become a little despairing – our blinkers are off, the reality is hard and sometimes cruel.
    However, I also think we move through this. Older still, we begin to realise that what we thought was the world was only another illusion. Murder is not more common but actually less than before – there are less wars and less crime – but the media is obsessed with it and gives the appearance that everything is awful.
    Once we go beyond this illusion we see that the majority of people are kind and loving, and those few who are mean are this way due to fear or pain, not evil or cruelty.
    For myself I think a period of reflection on the good and sorrowful is what Xmas should be – not a stressful crush of gifts and proscribed gestures.
    Enjoy your quieter Xmas. 😀

    • Aw that is so true. It does seem like a swing- enjoy the holidays like crazy, grow up a little and get bitter, get older and enjoy them again because of the closeness of people that we love and the closeness itself is the miracle and blessing. Wow!

  6. I love this. You have articulated what I have had trouble expressing. I didn’t realise you were from Connecticut. This awful event must feel too close to home. You are right, some tragedies we can’t get our heads around. It’s a biological mechanism apparently.

    • that would make sense. I bet there are different styles of empathy too, some people maybe are more logical about it or something. I know for me, seeing a picture on the news with the same trees that were in my back yard is a lot different than seeing a picture of even some place in Austin, where the trees are all different. It’s so strange.

  7. Great post. I was quite disappointed when I learned there wasn’t a Santa Clause 🙂

    Money…well…my thoughts on that are that it is a fallacy…no reason for people with plenty of energy to be poor…we all have energy that could be used to benefit group survival and well being…but as you know…the world doesn’t work that way.

    I think the belief and true foundation of Christmas is gone. Unless one is deeply religious and practices what is preached…Christmas is an empty shell. Sure…it offers an opportunity for family and loved ones to get together…but other than that…what does Christmas mean these days?

    My brother has written a nice piece that talks about new rituals and traditions for enlightened beings to celebrate…it all centers around creating meaning behind celebrations…for him…it all relates around the position of the earth relative to the sun…and the celebrations based on the different positions has to do with light and dark…celebrating those differences as we orbit the sun.

    I haven’t decided yet what I want to do…but Christmas doesn’t have any meat behind it…for me. But…I do enjoy the spectacle…and being with loved ones.

    • Can you share the link to your brother’s piece, or the name? I’d like to read it! It is interesting to trace back a lot of the Christian holidays to the Pagan roots, I had a great teacher who would talk about the “Son” of God being the “Sun” and compared each holiday to it that way- it was really interesting. Like Easter brings the return of the Sun, and after December 25th-ish the days start getting longer, the Sun is born. I would love to read his piece!
      And at any rate, it is good that for some people there is time off of work and more time to spend with loved ones. That’s really always a good thing.

  8. Leave it to you to solve the worlds problems when you are 6 🙂

    I feel like the spirit of Christmas is really inside and as long as I can still look at the world and imagine and feel the magic and joy and sadness, I can continue celebrating this holiday. Being so close to the CT tragedy has only made it easier to see the love behind the pain.

    All my Christmas decorations are passed down through the years or from Goodwill. No matter how far my loved ones are away I can still feel that invisible cord connecting us. And if I’m alone and have no one, I can still feel the love and joy that everyone else has from being together.

    Giving presents to strangers is a great feeling.

  9. I am right there with you Jennifer. Based on what I see and hear from others in conversation and then from the world at large via media/news, facebook, twitter and advertising, to me the “holidays” have become all about buy-buy-buy, presents, decorations, more buying, overconsumption and obligation. And even though people post something about their interest in helping others, it is followed with a post about how they are so pissed off about a long line at Target or the post office. Or how mad they are at the person standing/driving in front of them. There is no love, I don’t feel any love. People seem to be just going through the motions. Therefore I have lost sight of the magic of the season, even when I look at a brightly lit home. To me I see money spent that could have been put to better use. But I also realize this is my current position. It too shall change at some point. Hopefully that family put up those lights to make them happy and increase their own magic… rather than putting the lights up to keep up with the Jones’. We all deserve to feel how we feel when we feel it. It doesn’t say anything other than we are respecting our own feelings in the present moment. My house isn’t celebrating Christmas this year, no decorations, no cards, no presents. Just expressions of love. That doesn’t mean we won’t in the future, it is just where we are this year. Hang in there, and let yourself feel your feelings. I completely understand how it can feel strange to celebrate after the tragedy in your home state CT. I am thinking of you Jennifer with Love, Dana.

    • Oh Dana, how precious. No presents or celebrations of Christmas, “just expressions of love.” that’s exactly perfect, that’s so REAL! I wonder what would happen to some families if every few years, that choice was made. Especially for kids? Wow. I can’t even imagine. This year my CT family is spread all over and there isn’t as much of a cohesive celebration, but thanks to the phones and Skype we can all connect as we wish, since people will have the time off of work and things like that. As I read your words, it dawned on me that the holiday is like a lot of emotions that come up during sitting practice- taking a break and stepping out, and then back in, can give us that perspective. We don’t have to fuse and 100% identify with the holiday spirit, but we can see it and still breathe and be present, rather than confusing the unification with that ‘holiday spirit’ and ‘presence’ if we aren’t feeling it. Hmm I may not be making as much sense in words as I feel in my head, but basically, I’m super glad you left that comment because it illuminated things for me. Thank you kindly!

  10. Before moving to Washington State, we lived in Redding, Ct. My daughter was born there 26 years ago. I loved the 13 years I spent in New England. Those states are some of the loveliest in the country. It saddened me to imagine such violence in idyllic Newtown. I often shopped and dined there. Movie night in one of the town buildings was lots of fun. Who could have imagined little children would one day be gunned down in such a rural setting?

    I pray that Newtown residents and those of the surrounding towns will be able to regain their sense of tranquility one day. It’s a New Year. We can always hope that God’s grace will warm the hearts of even the most hardened among us.

    Again…I pray. 🙂

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