How a grouch saved Christmas
Holiday seasons of the past
The holiday season, for my family, officially kicked off with the arrival of Fall. We would put away our summer clothes and get out the sweaters and coats and the Halloween decorations. The chill in the air was a harbinger of the happy times to come. We did not necessarily enjoy the cold or the inevitable snow and ice; we just were good at making the best of it.
We made hearty soups and stews and baked up sweet treats for visiting relatives and friends. We would decorate our home and sing songs. The biggest fun of all was putting up the Christmas tree. My mom would turn off all of the lights in the house except for the tree lights. I would gaze at that tree for what seemed like eons. I loved it, it was somehow so pretty and peaceful looking.
I feel I must be honest, I grew up very rich. Rich in family love that is. Financially we were not well off. Our Christmas tree was artificial, the ornaments were cheap and there were never stacks of gifts under it. I never cared that we were poor because we always had such fun. Our little house was the holiday gathering place.
Unfortunately, things changed as the years went by. Less and less people came to our home each year. As is the way of life, some passed away, some moved away and some had families of their own. After I got married, my home became the new gathering place for my friends and some family members. That too changed over the course of about fifteen years.
With one divorce and a second pending and other unhappy changes, the holidays weren't very bright anymore.
Bright smile, cold heart
I have always loved the holidays and even after life happened, I tried to spread some holiday happiness to my loved ones. I would decorate, cook and bake and make sure they each had a gift to open. I threw small scale parties for Halloween, Christmas and New Year's. I never asked or expected anything in return and that is what I usually got. For a time, I didn't mind giving without receiving. It made me happy to see the their eyes light up each holiday season.
Each year, I grew a little bit more resentful. Please don't misunderstand, it wasn't gifts I wanted. I would have appreciated an offer to help bake cookies or even just someone to talk to while I baked them myself. No one offered to help clean up or decorate. They just showed for the "good stuff" and then left. I admit I took on the stress myself, it was my fault. No one ever asked me to do any of it. However, they didn't think twice to make it clear they were mad if I forgot to make the fudge or could not afford gifts and had to make them.
Little by little I became very resentful and even a bit depressed. I started dreading the holidays but did my best to fake it. I put on a bright smile and went through the motions as long as I could. Finally, something in me just snapped. I couldn't take being used any more. I gave up on all of it.
It really is kind of funny how people deal with the holidays, Christmas in particular. I have a very special person in my life, who means the world to me. I've known him for about ten years now, although for much of that time we lived hundreds of miles apart. We now live in the same town and share an apartment. He is the type of guy who will do just about anything to help someone.
He also despises the holiday season, for his own reasons. He is not one to decorate, give gifts or any other festive activities. He would rather let the season pass without much thought. He does not attend his own family holiday gatherings or anyone else's. I affectionately call him a holiday grouch (sort of like a certain green Christmas classic character many of us know).
I thought we would get along famously over the holidays since we had similar views. It was kind of nice knowing that he would not expect, nor want, anything Christmas related. I wouldn't have to bake, decorate or drive myself mad trying to find the perfect gift. No pressure for the perfect meal or best cards, no having to dress up or even play Christmas music. Boy, was I wrong!
A change of heart
Angel (not his real name, but a nickname that fits him) came home from work bearing gifts of a Christmas tree and decorations! We spent the evening putting up that tree and having a good time in the process. I asked him why and he gave me his simple reason: he wanted me to be happy. He made sure we watched holiday movies, had plenty of goodies and we lit that tree every night right up until New's Eve. That "grouch" even gave me a present that he wrapped himself.
He went even further by suggesting walks in the evenings to look at light displays and even had us watching my favorite holiday classic cartoons. He never allowed idle time for bad thoughts or feelings to creep in and kept people away that might make me feel bad all over again. We spent time with family and friends spreading the cheer. He showed me how magical Christmas time really is.
Now, fancy trees, gifts and other fare do not make Christmas special. What truly made that Christmas so heartwarming is the care and consideration he put into making it so. It was the sentiment behind the baubles that I will always remember. I was so moved by his gesture that I got swept up in the spirit of it all. I made candies and cookies, because I wanted to, not because it was expected. I even found myself humming a holiday tune each morning.
If someone had told me a few years ago that it would be Angel that helped me find joy in Christmas again, I would have thought they were completely insane. It is true though and I loved every minute of it. I found my holiday cheer and know how to keep it, thanks to my grouch who saved Christmas.
You might be thinking that this was just a sappy story. Well, you're right. It is a sappy story but it did actually happen. The whole point is to never lose sight of what the holidays are really about: caring for one another. Shiny packages, pretty decorations and good food are all nice perks to the season, but are not important in the big picture. Angel didn't give two figs about Christmas for himself but couldn't bear the thought of me being miserable during my favorite time of year.
Want to know something really neat? Angel found himself having a good time despite his personal conflicts. We ended up helping each other leave behind those negative feelings and had a great time. It is now my goal each year to try to pay that favor forward for others around me. No stress, no pressure, just spreading a kind word and spending quality time with good people. After all, what we really have in this world is each other, right?
© 2014 Tammy Cramblett