It gets to the point where you simply can’t avoid Christmas no matter how hard you try.
And believe me, I try, though I’m not a Scrooge, necessarily.
Like the average person, I loved Christmas growing up. Christmas morning was pure family magic. Despite our blue-collar household, our parents managed to convince Santa to go all out when he got to our house.
My sister and I had a typical brother-sister relationship: often bitter and biting. But with Christmas came a sibling rivalry detente. In the end, the amazing toys and gifts were thrilling, but the love/peace we shared during that week is the long-lasting emotion that sticks with me as I get older.
Over time I moved away and our parents both passed away at young ages. My mom was the true driving force behind the legendary Christmas magic in our household. Her greatest joy came when her family experienced their greatest joys. That extended beyond Christmas into our everyday lives, but it was at Christmas where it truly sparkled. My dad’s feigned indifference hid a similar emotional tie to the holiday, to a point where as his kids got older, the only thing he ever wanted for Christmas was for the six of us to be together.
When I hear the faint trills of a familiar Christmas carol in a store, I cringe as I recall what I’m missing each year. Christmas-themed commercials trigger anxiety twinges, as I remember what it used to be like to shop for my family with heightened excitement and anticipation.
It’s similar to the feeling you got when you realized after the big dinner that Christmas was officially over, and all of the anticipation energy was spent. It’s an unmistakable emptiness. Not to be too dark, but that’s the same feeling many people get this time of year through similar histories or other tragedies of life. Recent loss — through death, divorce or distance — can be especially devastating during the holidays.
In no way do I wish to piddle on the parade, quite the opposite. I implore you to make the most of whatever your family does to celebrate the holidays. If you can’t be with them in person, be sure to video call to stay connected, if only virtually. It also helps to get out into the community and attend events to at least tangentially experience the positive emotions of the season: Be lifted by others being lifted.
Selflessness also acts as an emotional stabilizer in times of anxiety. Volunteer at the food bank, soup kitchen or shelter. Make meaningful connections with those who WISH they had positive family memories to trigger nostalgia. It’s not easy to break through the shell of seasonal anxiety, but it can make all of the difference to you and to those you reach.
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