December 26, 2019

Mr. Scrooge

I really don't like Christmas. I hate to say it, but December isn't my favorite time of year and over the years I have gotten very grumpy once Thanksgiving ends. Now this spirit of Christmas “non-joy” is not very popular with my family. My wife and daughters think Christmas is the best time of the year, and they take great joy in letting me know of much of a Grinch and Scrooge I am. But before you cast me away as a holiday hater, let me explain a few things.

As a child I loved Christmas. What wasn't to like? You get time off school and where I lived, it always meant snow to go play in and often there would be a lot of it. Christmas also meant large family gatherings and I would get to see aunts, uncles and cousins I never saw outside of the holiday season. Sometimes we would even get to travel to my grandparents’ house in Illinois, which was always special. My mom's family had a special tradition of reading the story of The Other Wiseman by Henry van Dyke on Christmas Eve and when I was 10 years old, they let me participate and read some of the passages. Christmas was really a memorable experience and it should have remained that way. But it didn't.

When I was 13 years old my parents started to have problems and their marriage became strained. To escape the conflict at home, I went to boarding school which was a welcome relief and I could focus on school and not the troubles at home. But that all changed the Christmas of 1984. That year I came home for the holiday break and found my parents had split and my dad had moved out. That's all it took. From that point on every Christmas was ruined for me. Each year when everyone else was celebrating, I was mourning. As the years went it, my sorrow grew. The pain of the situation finally became apparent to me when I was married and my wife and I "celebrated" our first Christmas. I think that's when I really understand how much Christmas bothered me. Over the years, I would end up in a depressed state once the calendar hit December 1 and continue into each New Year. 

The culmination of my pain occurred in 2016 when my father suddenly passed away 10 days before Christmas. Even though I was in my late 40's by that point, the pain of the crushed Christmas in 1984 hit me hard. His death took me several years to overcome. And each Christmas afterwards my wife became very apprehensive. She knew how much I was suffering and hated the season as it was an annual reminder of a painful period in my life. We finally ended up having good conversations about my dislike of Christmas and she really understood where I was coming from. And then the change happened.

Last Christmas I decided I needed to change my attitude. It wasn't healthy for me or my family, and I couldn't continue this way. I reflected on my life and all the blessings God has given me and my family and realized I was focusing on the negative and not the positive things in my life. Christmas really is a celebration of family and I had been focusing on what I didn't have, instead of what I had been blessed with. Through much prayer, I have decided to try to not hate Christmas so much and to celebrate with my family and enjoy the season like I did when I was a boy. There are many ways in which God has blessed our lives, that to spend time not focusing on those wonderful things is a detriment to my relationship with Him. Even though we know that Jesus wasn't born at Christmas, it still is a celebration of His birth and the wonderful gift God gave us. Christmas is now a way of making new positive memories that can replace the painful ones that are slipping away.