When I was a kid, I used to hear adults complain about how much they hated the holidays. Now, to a child, for whom Christmas was all cookies and Santa and presents, the expression of hatred for the holidays made about as much sense as the waahhh wahhhh of the adults in Peanuts holiday specials. Why would anybody hate the holidays? Only Scrooge and the Grinch hated the holidays, and even they came around. In fact, watch any holiday movie ever made about a person who’s lost the Christmas spirit, and you can pretty much guarantee by the end that they’ll find it.
But life is not a movie, and as an actual human I found myself liking the holidays less and less as I progressed into adulthood. It started in the days when you had to actually shop for gifts in actual brick-and-mortar stores, which were crowded and hot and just intensified the stress of obligatory gift-exchanging. Then there was the wrapping. The staggering costs. The overeating. The baking. Family issues. Holiday travel.
It got to the point where when that first holiday display came out in a store in October, my body physically tensed up. Here we go again, I’d lament.
But the weird thing is, instead of just allowing myself to dislike a time of year where you’re supposed to pile on eight times your normal responsibility, I fought my dislike of the holidays. This isn’t right, I’d think, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Last year was the low point for my conflicted holiday attitude. I need to love Christmas, I would think. I’m lucky to have all the necessary material blessings of this life, and a loving family, and my health, and I’m supposed to be loving this. I’m not allowed to complain about it.
But this year, as typically happens after one hits one’s rock bottom, I decided things needed to change.
This year I gave myself permission to hate the holidays.
And a weird thing happened: I actually didn’t hate the holidays this year.
Sure, there have been parts I still hate, namely centered around the fact that everybody needs to be in the exact same places at the exact same time during the holidays. Some of these crowds can be avoided by shopping online, but everybody still goes to the big light displays and the airport. Everybody’s on the road, impatient and angry.
But mostly, I liked the holiday season this year. I accepted that it was temporary, and that I was allowed to feel however I wanted to feel about it. I found myself appreciating the pretty lights and the gingerbread. Instead of swimming upstream, I decided to go with the flow.
And the flow was pretty good.