I hate Christmas. There, I’ve said it. I dread the time from November 1st to about December 29th. I know, I’m a freak. It’s like admitting that I hate puppies or chocolate. Hating Christmas is unnatural and, as best I can, I try to hide my utter disdain, but it often pops up during this time of year.
Growing up poor made Christmas a real drag. I’d see how stressed my mom would get and, as the big day grew closer, I worried about the lack of wrapped goodies under our fake tree. Somehow, though, she always pulled it off. We always had something. (Although she was horrible at hiding the presents so I usually knew what I was getting!)
There’s one Christmas in particular that stands out among the rest. I was young, perhaps in 4th or 5th grade. Our dog, Cubby, had escaped out the front door. Being a tiny black Pomeranian, he was quickly run down by a car right in front of our house. My mom, though, grabbed him up and we immediately drove to an emergency pet hospital.
The waiting room was so bright, and my brother and I sat there, praying that our dog would be okay. My mom quietly came over to us and sat down on the plastic waiting room chairs. She explained that there were two options. If we chose to “fix” Cubby’s broken leg, we would have to forego Christmas presents. To a ten year old girl and her eight year old brother, this was a no brainer. Cubby’s leg was fixed and for the next several weeks he hobbled around in a neon orange cast.
As this was before the purchase of the fake tree, we also had to forego buying a Christmas tree that year. There were no decorations, no ornaments, no Christmas. My grandma eventually found out and she did bring us a tiny tabletop tree, but it wasn’t the same.
As a parent now, I still can’t even imagine the strength it took for my mom to admit that, should we fix Cubby’s leg, there would be no Christmas. I still stand by my decision, and I know my brother does as well. But this was just the beginning of my hatred of Christmas. I saw the defeat in my mother when she had to admit to her children that we couldn’t have our dog and Christmas. There just wasn’t enough money for both. Deep down she knew what we would pick, and she knew we would never hold it against her, but I know she felt inadequate. Who wouldn’t?
Now that my mom is gone I despise the holiday even more. As young adults, the tradition of “going home” for the holidays is what everyone does. They travel by plane or car to arrive by Christmas morning, just in time for the ceremonial gift exchange followed by a magnificent feast. This whole ordeal is lead, created, and orchestrated by the family matriarch. She preps and slaves in the kitchen for hours as the house fills with the smells of fresh bread, roasted meats, and Yankee candles. The tree is lit, the television is on, and the “kids” are routinely being called into the kitchen to set the table, put dishes on the table, or mash the potatoes. It’s the typical Christmas, straight out of any holiday card.
Without the family matriarch, the holiday suddenly loses its traditions. Gone are the trips home. Gone are the delicious meals, with plenty to take home. Gone are the holidays. Sure, my husband and I travel to his parents and celebrate, but those are his traditions. His family. My stepmom also hosts Christmas for my step siblings and extended family, but, again, her traditions are not mine. While the food is great at both homes, it’s not my mom’s. The ornaments on their trees are not the ornaments that my brother and I eagerly placed on our tree each year as we reminisced about how and where the bauble came to be in our possession.
This year, as Logan is just now old enough to help hang ornaments, my husband and I began to reminisce about each, sharing funny stories and anecdotes as we thought back. But there was no delicious food and ancient Christmas decorations. Nobody comes to our house to celebrate, as I’ve hardly earned a matriarchal position. I’m not ready to take over the reigns of holiday hosting, and it will be a long time before I’m prepared to do so.
Until then, there are only 363 days until the next Christmas.