I’ve lost the Christmas Spirit.
Growing up, Christmas was my favorite holiday.
It was a magical happy time. People were friendlier. The city decorated the downtown and put up a giant tree in Red Arrow Park. (This year our tree lost its top and made news across the nation it seems. How embarrassing.)
Nearly every home (except along 51st Street, which was the predominant Jewish neighborhood) was decorated with Christmas lights and other beautiful decorations.
Every television show had a heartwarming, if somewhat sappy or corny, Christmas special. Christmas movies were played with regularity.
As a child, Christmas was a marvelous time. We’d sing carols on the playground. We’d visit Capital Court and see the Kooky Cooky House, this wonderful giant gingerbread house filled with all manner of wonderful animated things, like dancing gingerbread men, and these Boxing Gloves that kneaded the dough as it rolled along a conveyer. And at the end of this marvelous house sat Santa Claus waiting to hear what we each wanted for Christmas. Then we’d get a Gingerbread Man and a coloring book and we’d go on our merry way, waiting with anticipation for the big night when Santa Claus would come and surround the Christmas trees with all manner of wonderfully wrapped presents. Presents he promised he’d bring.
We were a rather secular family, my parents having dropped out of organized religion about the time I was born (coincidence? I think not!). So I didn’t grow up with a lot of religious exposure. I knew who Jesus was, of course. And I knew the holiday was centered on his birth. We had a nativity scene. I understood the concept, but the spiritual aspect of Christmas took a backseat to the magical wonderment of Santa.
I believed in Santa Claus.
That feeling of wonderment lasted for me well into adulthood.
That is, until I had my own children, and then all the pains and adult responsibilities of the season reared their ugly heads like a vicious Hydra, ready to strike down my joy.
Oh, I can still see how the children find the holiday special. I still enjoy the lights. My heart still warms at the sight of a mall Santa, but now I’m seeing it from my parents’ perspective: The worries over how to pay for Christmas. The delaying of paying certain bills to have enough money for gifts, in other words, robbing Peter to pay Paul. The overwhelming feeling that you’re just not doing enough for the kids to make their holiday a special memory they’ll cherish for the rest of their lives. That’s tough burden to bear.
Not to mention the cleaning and the decorating. And this year the season crept up too quickly and we didn’t put up any outdoor decorations and now I’m looking forward to pouring hot water into the snow-covered frozen ground to get the spotlights up.
Add to that the stress of family get-togethers, having to ready the house for that special invasion. Not that I don’t enjoy the company of family during this time, it’s just that the preparation sometimes seems daunting. Do we have enough food to eat? Enough to drink for a proper wassailing? Is our selection of Christmas music varied enough? Where the hell did I put my Santa hat?
We do have snow, which helps. And we’re expecting more snow. Maybe it’ll stick around and we’ll have a white Christmas for a change.
But forgive me if I just can’t yet get into the spirit of the season. Usually by now I’ve been listening to Christmas carols for a week or more. This year I haven’t turned them on. They just aren’t doing it for me.
I still want to believe in Santa Claus, but lately it seems so hard to do. Maybe Christmas morning, as I watch the kids open their gifts my own memories will rush back like an old friend and I’ll embrace the spirit of the season once again.
I can only hope.