Bah Humbug

Today’s post was going to ridicule the Scrooges of Christmas. The idea was to ponder how anyone can be grumpy when surrounded with blinking colored lights and music that includes jingle bells and Bing Crosby. There’s a Santa Claus everywhere you turn around and snowmen decorate the yard. Children are bursting with giddy excitement and dessert has become the main course. Mailboxes are filled with special greetings from people you haven’t heard from since last Christmas and everyone is wishing you a bright and cheerful Happy Holidays! How can anyone not be caught up in the Christmas excitement?

As I said, I was going to write about that. I’m not now. Now, I get it.

Christmas comes with an abundance of pressure; stress that was never intended as a holiday garment. The minute the first strand of lights is pulled out, it’s a rush of busy activity. We worry about what we’re going to surprise everyone with Christmas morning and in today’s economy, we worry about how to pay for it all. We wind up paying for this year’s gifts with next year’s money. As children grow and move, we worry about how to hold it all together and make sure no one is left out. We worry about making sure everyone is on the greeting card list, so no one’s feelings get hurt because of our faulty memory. Inside our heads we’ve imagined this special holiday and we put pressure on ourselves to make our dream a reality. We don’t want to disappoint the people we love, and we worry that we will no matter how hard we try.

Most families are living paycheck to paycheck and a few are even a paycheck or two behind. Final notices fill the mailbox, stealing the joy out of the Christmas card beside it. You’re already worried about how to put food on the table and now you need to put presents under the tree. It doesn’t matter that you know the season is not about the gifts, because that doesn’t remove the pressure to give. Others haven’t really put this burden on you. You do it to yourself, because it’s an expectation you have for your holiday. It’s your vision of Christmas and more than disappointing others, you don’t want to disappoint yourself. That admission would force you to face the reality or your true situation.

Worry is not a festive cloak. Neither is stress, but many will wear it this Christmas. The sad part is that no matter how hard you try to remove the pressure from their backs, their minds will continue to hold onto it. Nothing will make them exchange it for the garments of joy and peace that should come with the season. Even as they’ve done their best to provide, they will sit there Christmas morning as the presents are unwrapped worrying about whether it was good enough and wishing they had done more. They will miss the joy of those receiving because of the fear that they have developed.

I know that feeling as a parent. Will the boys be happy with what Santa brought them or will they give me that fake smile while saying they love it? Did I succeed or did I fail?

So, I understand the grumpbug of Christmas, because I go through those moments, as well. However, as I look back on Christmas past, the smiles were genuine and I worried for no reason, at all. The kids were always thrilled with what we managed to buy them and it was they who reminded me that it wasn’t the gifts under the tree that made it Christmas; it was the family that surrounded it. With that thought in mind, I can’t be a Grinch at Christmas, because I happen to have the best family in the world.

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