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There’s a simple reason we are all nostalgic for this time
Nowadays, when I think of the word Christmas, my mind automatically conjures up the warring factions in Facebook land.
We have the people who happily post a cartoon of Olaf, the snowman, belting out, “Only 300 days until Christmas!!!”, and the rest of the population, screaming back, “NO! Say it ain’t so!”
Christmas is an emotional time. Lots of holidays are special, but Christmas is the big enchilada. It makes itself known the minute our Halloween pumpkins roll off the front porch. It’s like a giant, pulsing machine, pushing us onward through November and gathering steam until we tear off that page in our calendars to reveal the big D: December.
Suddenly, as if realizing it for the first time, instead of every year of our lives, it hits us that we only have three weeks to get four years of work done by the 25th. That’s three weeks and change! How the heck did that happen?
Now, obviously, I’m looking at this from a tired, grownup woman’s perspective, because tired grownup women are the ones, the general population somehow decided, who should shoulder the burden of this wondrous occasion. Possibly because this same population deemed that shopping, gift-wrapping, cooking and decorating is something we women just love to do, on top of the other wondrous things we do in the run of a day, like working, and raising kids, and cleaning the house.
But I’m not going to leave men out of this equation. They, too, have their assigned duties at this time of year, risking life and limb to hang off a ladder and drape Christmas lights on rooftops and big trees in the front yard. They are also the ones stuck in the garage putting together bikes, train sets and dollhouses late into the night on Christmas Eve. It’s also their lot in life to shovel the driveway, clean off the car and go collect Great-Grandad and his bulky wheelchair from the nursing home.
We moan about it endlessly, while we stand in store lineups overheating in our winter jackets, and yet, like lemmings hurrying towards the edge of a cliff, we all fall willingly over the side. We just have to. Because Christmas is the chance for us to be together again, and as our families grow and spread out across the globe, we desperately need an occasion to guilt the people we love into coming home to spend time with us.
And we honestly think that’s what we want. Until we’re in the middle of stuffing a turkey and an argument breaks out between eggnog swilling, longtime Conservative uncle Ernie and your die-hard Liberal auntie Joan, who’s hopped up on her third gin and tonic.
Christmas is wonderful but messy. Kind of like life.
We have marvelous memories of being a kid, hanging up our stockings and leaving cookies and milk for Santa Claus and always a carrot for Rudolph. Of not being able to get to sleep, almost sick with excitement about opening presents in the morning.
And then we have the not-so-great memories of the first time we couldn’t get home for Christmas. Crying into our frozen dinner in a studio apartment far, far away, with our mom on the phone trying to make us feel better.
Or that first Christmas after you’ve lost someone. It’s heartbreaking. You wish the whole day would just disappear and leave you alone. Everyone in the world is celebrating, except you.
Christmas can make happy people really happy, and sad people really sad. Because it’s a day, times a thousand. It’s THE day.
Unfortunately, Christmas has become an industry of sorts. We now have whole weeks on television dedicated to Christmas movies, although why this is necessary, I’ll never know. The script is the same every time. Savvy, gorgeous, determinedly-single business woman goes home for the holidays and bumps into the nerd from high school, who’s now a gorgeous hunk who runs his own winery. Sparks fly during the town hall Christmas carolling contest. They fall into each other’s arms while wearing ugly Christmas sweaters and kiss under the mistletoe. Fade to black.
But despite all the nonsense that threatens to drown Christmas in a commercialized quagmire, the simple reason we are all nostalgic for this time of year is the only reason that matters.
Love for our family. Love for our friends and neighbours. Standing outside in the quiet of a winter’s night, with snow falling gently around us. Wishing for peace on earth.
Christmas is “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”
Lesley Crewe is a writer living in, and loving, Cape Breton. These are the meandering musings of a bored housewife whose ungrateful kids left her alone with a retired husband. Since all her pets have now died, she's very cranky. Her 11th book, Are You Kidding Me?! Chronicles of an Ordinary Life, (a collection of her various columns over the past 20 years), is now available in book stores.