“Hate” is probably too strong a word for how I feel about Christmas, mainly because I’ve made a decision to opt out of everything I hate about the season and I’m therefore actually pretty neutral on the subject. But as the snow is now on the ground, seemingly to stay, the lights and decorations are going up, the tunes are starting to play and the parties are being discussed, I recognize that my emotional reaction may actually start to shift towards that all-out “Bah, humbug” point.
Here’s the thing: Christmas consists almost entirely of bullshit. I don’t just mean that it’s become overly commercialized and commodified – though it has – because I think that the “putting the Christ back in Christmas” people are doing the exact same thing in ways that are as bad or worse. The entire ritual is based around performed joy, the inauthenticity of which is palatable from nearly corner and which, to me, is the antithesis of any kind of actual joy. I’ve always hated Valentine’s Day not just for its incredibly overcommodification of Hallmark-ified “love”, not just for its overwhelming heteronormativity and enforcement of gendered relationship expectations, but because the extent of that prescibed affection is such that if a partner were to tell me he loved me on Valentine’s Day, it would mean less than nothing. I’ve come to feel the same way about Christmas, only tenfold, because the expectations extend to every relationship I have, and further, to the presumption that I – especially as a Christian – should feel some sort of warm, fuzzy gratitude deep down in my cold, cold heart.
I’m actually a very hopeful person, despite my penchant for sarcasm and the Scrooge-esque sentiments outlined above. I’m just a big believer in authenticity with a deep aversion to expectations. I grew up in a family where serious dysfunction was consistently masked by intense pressure to present an outward image that everything was okay, and Christmas amped up the volume so that we had to project “fantastic”. Partially by luck, but also because I’ve made a series of conscious choices to move towards eliminating all the bullshit from my life, I’m in a position where I can opt out of a lot of Christmas-based expectations. Baking? Not a chance. Tree/decorations? Too much work. Family gatherings? Sorry, I have a job that requires me to work on Christmas day, but hey, I’d be glad to meet up with people in a much more low-key setting. Gifts? Only in so far as I can do something that actually matters to the people I really care about, and not – for example – if I have to resort to a box of chocolates/cheap decoration.
Mainly, what I refuse to do is perform joy or peace or love. Not because I hate joy and peace and love, but of course because I’m a huge fan of joy and peace and love, and I take them far too seriously to project false versions of them or, for that matter, to limit their relevance to December. Like I said, I feel really fortunate that I’ve situated myself in life in such a way that I don’t have to tolerate very many Christmas-based expectations, but I feel a lot of empathy for those people who can’t really shed them and who are still dancing the dance of stressed-out anti-joy. For my own sake, I’ve reached a comfortable détente with Christmas and its attendant pressures, but I do still kind of hate watching what it seems to do to everyone else.