How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Holidays
by Geoff Kleinman
I’ve been not celebrating Christmas almost my whole life. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Not celebrating Christmas is like being six feet tall and not playing basketball. But I do play basketball, or at least I have, but I’ve never been able to really dunk the ball, and that troubles me. What I don’t do is celebrate Christmas.
Not celebrating Christmas hasn’t always been the issue that it is. I’ve not celebrated Christmas in some pretty extraordinary places. I’ve not celebrated Christmas in Hong Kong where everything was open and ready for business. I’ve not celebrated in London, where the only restaurant open was McDonald’s but we got to test market this ‘new’ product called the Chicken McNugget. That not-celebration was followed by an amazing Boxing Day celebration filled with fun and revelry. It was one of those perfect days I’ll never forget.
My usual not-celebration involves going out for some sort of Asian food and a movie. For many years this not-celebration was a pretty sweet deal. We ate like kings in restaurants that rarely had anyone in them. Once in a while we’d run in to other friends not celebrating Christmas and we’d not celebrate together. Food would always be followed by some big holiday movie and we always got the perfect, middle of the theater seats. Not celebrating Christmas used to be like getting into Disneyland before everyone else; there’s a reason they call it The Magic Kingdom, only the magic goes away when all the fucking people show up. But things have changed, and over the past few years my not-celebration has been completely invaded by people who are actually celebrating.
It’s not that I get particularly blue around the holidays, I just sort of get annoyed. As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to delve deeper into the source of my general aversion of the holidays, and the unfortunate revelation I had was, it wasn’t just the winter holidays I had issues with – it was all holidays. This bit of news was rain on my wife’s parade, who unlike me actually loves the holidays.
This all came to an explosive head on Mother’s Day a couple of years ago. In an ill-fated attempt to show my wife that her holiday was important and I was big enough of a man to make it happen, I tried to make a nice pancake breakfast, with a huge hangover. Now this doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster, but it was. Yelling and screaming at someone who is the focus of a special day when you completely fail at a fairly easy and mundane task is really, really bad. I call this particular day “holiday ground zero”.
That day put me in a complete tail spin. How could my approach to holidays be causing such misery? Then it hit me. I’m Charlie Brown. My issues with holidays aren’t over the actual holidays themselves, it’s the complete lack of ability to deal with the crushing weight of the expectations of others. The stakes on holidays are so high that it magnifies any and every basic imperfection. How can you possibly celebrate in the face of all that?
This holiday existential crisis came around the same time as my wife suggesting that maybe, this year, we actually celebrate ‘some’ Christmas. Heather is Jewish but didn’t grow up that way, so she connects some of the non-religious elements of the holidays with her family. This suggestion sat like a big white elephant in our home for weeks until the weight of it literally knocked me on my ass.
Lying there, I discovered just how complicated I had made all things holiday, and I realized my solution was pretty simple. I was going to just stop worrying about it and find some way to love the holidays. I know there are no guarantees to having a successful holiday but that doesn’t mean I can’t try. I may still be just like Charlie Brown, but in the end, it always seems to work out for him. Perhaps the same will be true for me.