It’s the holiday season. Hot chocolate and Christmas tree sales and if you’re me, a totally bizarre melancholy that washes over me so unexpectedly you’d think I’d never been gloomy before - yet the sensation hits me seasonally every year.
I’m not a particularly gloomy person. In fact, I’m pretty chipper. I love Christmas cookies and love a secret Santa gift exchange. December even happens to be my absolute favorite month of the year! I always say it’s the only month cold is actually cute. By January, I’m over. It’s so last year.
Yet, every December, a few days close to Christmas, I just get sad. I need a lot of warm baths and time alone to get into my feelings. There is nothing to be fixed, no problem to solve, I’ve pinpointed that it seems to be this strange emotional connection to the passage of time I mourn. Every other day of the year, I embrace change and move quickly onto the next. But for a few days in December, I stand still and watch the world turn around me and just want to sob. When did I grow up? Why is everything changing around me? I swear I was just six years old wearing fuzzy pajamas decoding Santa’s letters and unable to fall asleep from all the excitement.
This melancholy really set in when I partnered up, because suddenly the traditions I had become accustomed to changed. I remember on one particularly fragile Christmas morning staying at my soon to be husband’s mom’s house (we were engaged but not yet married and starting to share holidays), I walked down for breakfast only to find it was just cereal. I went back to my room and cried. Christmas morning is for pancakes! French toast! At the very least some warm buttered toast and fresh scrambled eggs. Cheerios on Christmas?! Was that even Christmas? John kept assuring me that we’d have the big meal later in the day but it just wasn’t the same. Breakfast is religious in my household and you don’t insult the meal by skipping it on such an important day like Christmas. Maybe I was being overly dramatic but wasn’t I allowed?
Then we opened gifts, and I learned his family does it one by one. I hate opening gifts in front of people. There is this weird performative pressure to love the gift and even if I do, I feel as if I’m fabricating my emotions to play to the gift giver. It feels inauthentic and I don’t want to feel inauthentic on the best day of the year! In my family, we ran down to the tree, began ripping and chaos ensued for the next 5 minutes until we found ourselves dissolved into a zoo of excitement and wrapping paper.
As the years have passed, I’ve come to peace with this sadness that sits in me and says hello for a few days around the holidays. John’s family has beautiful traditions that my family didn’t have - in fact, their Christmas eve appetizer feast is something I now look forward to! To a “I’ll try anything once” type of menu-orderer like me, a feast of dips and funky cheeses is my dream.
This year, we’ll spend the holidays at home in New York City. The first chance to combine his past and mine and enter a new era of “ours.” So, a few months before December rolled around, we sat down and brainstormed. What do we want Christmas Eve to look like? Will we open any gifts or no? Will Santa come to our house or will we skip that and just do family gifts? Is the big meal a Christmas breakfast, lunch, brunch or dinner - or a combo of a few?
It was a fun conversation to have. Planning your life with somebody is a gift and for me, these evening chats over wine where we dream up our futures together is when I’m the happiest. Like, wasn’t getting ready for prom always more fun than actual prom?
So, happy holidays, Rebels. Enjoy the anticipation. Make the plans. Embrace the melancholy. Honor traditions old and new. And in a time that is all about gathering and coming together, may you wholly embrace the season you are in - may the relationship you have with yourself be something to celebrate this year.
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