It’s coming. I saw the first glimpse of it before Halloween was over as stores replaced scary masks with stockings and tree lights. You can try to avoid thinking about it by throwing yourself into work, staying out of stores and limiting screen time. But Black Friday pop-ads and canned Christmas jingles slip in before anyone has even thought about how to prepare their Thanksgiving turkey. You’re dragged kicking and screaming by your ears into the holiday vortex. There is no escape.
As the decorations and illuminations go up around you, memories come flooding back. Good memories, sorrowful memories. Memories that go into hibernation for an entire year, awaken to haunt you.
“Awe c’mon. It’s just one day,” you tell yourself. But you know you are lying. It’s more than a day. It’s a friggin’ movement. And if you are spending the holidays alone, you are not really in it.
“What are doing for the holidays?”
“What are your Christmas plans?”
“Going anywhere for the holidays?”
“Going home for the holidays?”
Well meaning coworkers and acquaintances unwittingly push you further into the vortex. You have to answer the question. You can’t ignore it, You can’t be rude.
“Nothing. None. Nowhere. No”
Their polite and smiley faces twitch a bit as they scramble for some response, waiting for an explanation to relieve them of having to stumble over a follow-up utterance. You don’t want to “explaaaaiiiin” anything. And as you walk away, their questions hover around your brain, the very ones you have been trying to avoid since ornaments replaced pumpkins in your local store.
Nope. There is no escape.
Now you may be thinking I am some sort of a Scrooge, that I hate Christmas. That I hate merriment and social gatherings and the warmth of the season. Nothing could be further from the truth. But despite tales like The Gift of the Magi, modern Christmas is for people who have either family, expendable income, or both. And if you find yourself without those vital features this time of year, it can be a bit soul crushing.
In previous years, as soon as I realized I might face Christmas alone, I’d plan an Orphan Christmas Party. I would invite everyone I knew at the time, didn’t matter who they were.
These days, my mates are spread all over the world. If it were possible, I would get on a plane and spend Christmas with my brother’s family in Canada, or my cousin in Alaska, or my aunt in Hawaii, or friends in California, Nevada, New York, Mexico, Australia, Korea or Germany or Thailand. But frankly, I’m not willing to go into debt over a holiday anymore.
I’ve spent a couple Christmas’ alone in the company of strangers and a compassionate bartender, singing sloppy Christmas songs in a chemical induced camaraderie which produced the present of a hangover so big it relieved me of any desire to pop a champagne bottle on New Years’ Eve. Failing that, I’ve even spent a Christmas Eve alone in a karaoke box, happily drinking through all of my holiday favorites.
So, no, I am not a Scrooge. I do not hate Christmas. And I’ve earned my Christmas-Alone-Avoidance badge. But this year I’m just not gonna go out of my way to try and avoid anything. Let Christmas come and go with all its traditions, memories, promises, joy, merriment, love, expectations, food, drink, sorrow, stress, loneliness, shopping, buying, wrapping, giving, taking and returning. When the ghosts of Christmas’ Past come about, I’ll politely decline their little regressive joy ride.
I’m taking a holiday from Christmas this year and I’m just gonna do something else.