I have had two clients today explain to me why they do not particularly care for Christmas. They each had their own reason for having some ambivalence about Christmas. I happen to really enjoy Christmas. They both reported having pleasant Christmases growing up, as did I. I think the difference is that I have a different attitude about Christmas. For me Christmas is honestly about the fun of giving and creating memories.
My first client explained that Christmas reminds her of all of the sadness in the world, and admitted to feeling some guilt for having the resources to celebrate Christmas while others do not. I acknowledged that sadness and poverty are real and regrettable. I also shared my confusion as to how whether I celebrated Christmas or not was going to actually affect the sadness of others. I honestly do not think that we can only celebrate in the absence of suffering—if that were the case then we really could never celebrate anything. I would rather affect the overall balance of joy and sadness in the world by bringing joy to my friends and family than by limiting the overall joy by not celebrating Christmas.
I elaborated that in my Christmas celebration I go out of my way to demonstrate to my friends that I am thinking of them and that they matter to me. We have holidays to celebrate mothers, fathers, and even secretaries/administrative assistants and bosses; to me Christmas operates as “Loved Ones Day,” but with more twinkly lights and sweets. In the same sense that I believe that demonstrating appreciation for the mothers and secretaries in our lives throughout the year is a good idea, demonstrating appreciation for friends and family throughout the year is also important. However, I do not think that this attitude precludes us going a step further one day a year, which we happen to call “Christmas.”
The second client explained to me that Christmas is not the same since her father died. I agreed with her that that was an undeniable truth—Christmas could never be the same. However, I suggested, Christmas did not need to be the same in order for it to be a celebration. No two Christmases are the same anyway. Yes, her life was dramatically changed, but she has gone on with living her life fully during the rest of the year and I did not see the argument for why she chose this particular day out of the year to note the way in which her life is now different. I do not say that to diminish her sense of loss—I genuinely respect that, but to highlight that we have a choice over what parts of our lives grief is going to affect. To anyone who feels hesitant to embrace Christmas because of a loss I would encourage looking at what else about Christmas has been rewarding and to focus and foster that aspect of one’s holiday celebration.
Growing up, Christmas was truly magical to me. My parents really made Christmas special. The first Christmas I spent without my family I made deliberate efforts to find new magic in my celebration—I knew what feelings and experiences I wanted to capture and arranged for it. Each year I now think of what memories and feelings I want to create and go about that. Finding gifts for my friends becomes not a task or chore, but rather and adventure. Each year I get to go on a series of treasure hunts. The best thing is that I get to decide what the treasure is. Some of those hunts go on online as I scour the internet for just the right gift or even in my head as I imagine what my loved ones might enjoy receiving.
Additionally, each year my boyfriend and I make about a thousand cookies and package them up for gifts. This is an exhausting and time consuming process and each year we laugh at ourselves for doing. It is also one of the most fun things we do for Christmas each year, because we do it together and we get to experience the connection that occurs in giving/receiving of a handcrafted gift. This is another part of the Christmas adventure for us.
The outlook that each of us takes toward Christmas is what determines our experience of Christmas. We all know about the “Christmas Spirit,” but if you don’t feel it naturally you can foster it in yourself by changing the way you think about Christmas—by changing your Christmas attitude.