Seriously, most children find the holiday season simply magical—buoyed by TV ads, store displays and the promise of presents—but many of my adult friends feel it’s stressful and exhausting. Yes, we love the decorations, the holiday music, the cookies and the parties, but the season starts too early and lasts too long, the kids become frenetic and the pressure to maintain the spirit nearly wrecks us.
Now that the holiday season starts in September (at least according to Costco and Target), by late December, some of us are ready to take all the red decor and “paint it black.”
I don’t think it’s true blues or depression, as in the Stones’ song, but perhaps we could call it end-of-the-year-itis. So, let’s just give ourselves permission to celebrate that the season signifies endings.
In Seattle, it does seem that the “whole world is black” during December. In fact, we endured something like 27 rainy days last month (totalling 6.79 inches of rain, in a year when we received 10 more inches than usual).
Because we live so far north, we experience very short days as we near the Winter Solstice. Those with office jobs hardly ever see the sun (even if it isn’t raining), which rises at nearly 8 am and sets at about 4:15 pm in late December.
Despite the dark, wet, crazy days, most of us parents try to act cheerful, putting one soggy boot in front of the other. For the sake of the kids, we decorate, we bake, we shop and we wrap. We write Christmas cards and cherish annual photos and letters from good friends. We attend parties and performances, and watch Elf and The Santa Clause over and over.
For me, however, the month is about finales. It’s the close of another calendar, the conclusion of a stressful season and a reminder of my father’s and brother’s premature deaths in long-ago Decembers.
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics points out that more Americans die in December and January than at other times of year. Sadly, those number ring true close to home: during one week last month, three local friends lost their fathers and another lost a younger sister. Another friend’s mother was gasping her last breaths.
In an effort to spread cheer for my family, I blast Christmas music throughout the house, and keep my car radio tuned to a commercial-free holiday-songs station. (Of course, I need to tune out Judy Garland, Elvis and the singers who lament, “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”)
As the craziness builds to a crescendo, I look forward to the midnight church service, with the reminder of the season’s real purpose and the candles that flicker during a soulful “Silent Night.”
Yes, I know, surviving Christmas is certainly a first-world problem.
My friends and family have money, gifts, decorations, beautiful trees and presents galore. We enjoy bountiful meals, chic clothes, good friends and fun fetes. We have roofs over our heads, and no flood or wind damage to deal with.
Most of all, we have each other.
So, every year, I try to re-center with family. After the Christmas roast and creamed corn casserole have been consumed, my husband, children and I pack the car and head for the ski slopes. The gifts, the cards and the cookies stay behind.
We relish several days of simplicity, seeing nothing but endless vistas of blue and white. At night, we sit by the fire and read or play board games. We don’t receive mail or phone calls from solicitors, and the biggest stress is trying to beat the morning lift lines. We decompress, breathe clean mountain air and challenge our bodies on bumpy ski runs.
We make resolutions for change and take a break from over-consumption.
Then, back in Seattle, we open new calendars, with all the hope and promise of fresh starts and new life. School starts again.
Friends and advertisers focus on health, happiness and weight loss.
The grass here remains green, and new plants start pushing through the earth. Stores sell blossoming bulbs, such as daffodils and hyacinths.
The days stretch out, and by the end of the month, we’ll have sunlight—should the rain cease – until 5 pm. Spring will follow soon, and the dark days of December will become a distant memory.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 7 January 2013
- The Christmas Beetle (blogpestcontrol.com)