Some people hate Christmas and the holidays. To their credit, there’s probably as many reasons to hate them as there are humans celebrating the same damn fucking holidays!
Despite the previous line, trust me when I say I don’t hate the holidays. I’m just at the level where I won’t care one way or the other. Sure, I like to gather with family and friends, or the girlfriend’s family (if applicable), but I wouldn’t mind just doing nothing, sleeping, maybe drinking, watching a movie or fucking. You know, stuff like that, ending with “ing”... without me looking too stupid!
And believe me, I’m not one of these guys complaining about Christmas being too commercial and shit. Sure it is, and listening to my roommate almost breaking off with her boyfriend over presents prices did bother me when I was trying to handle my hangover without having to stand up and run to the toilet (It’s probably been the theme of my last weekend, thankfully, and happily, in various settings, from trains to Chinese restaurants, passing by friend’s places and buses), but I still think presents are indeed in the spirit of the holidays. It’s just that most people don’t have any clue of what spirit means...
But, thanks to all that, an amazing brain and another crazy Christmas story, I think I have a decent theory as to why some people hate Christmas that much, even if in the end, it's only the celebration of a hero’s birth...legend or not.
And here I am, going back in time. Back to when I was too young to be cynical, but too old to be naive, or to believe in a Santa Claus hanging out at the local mall for a month, asking us if we've been naughty or nice (as it turned out, every kid has been a little of both)...
One Christmas eve, at my maternal grand-parents very hospitable, welcoming home (as only grand-parents homes can be), not able to sleep for that weird nap French-Canadians (Following Catholic traditions they don’t believe in anymore) adults force their kids to have until midnight’s mass, Christmas dinner and all, I was just waiting for my mom to come wake me up. I’d pretend to wake up, get my nice clothes on, go to church, read the little prayers booklet out of boredom, then finally come back home to...what? Eat?!? At, like, one in the morning?
Granted, the food was always amazing, but I just couldn’t wait to unwrap those presents, with my uncle playing Santa, always joking about getting a kiss on the cheek from awkward teens, just to make them feel uncomfortable (Years later, in adulthood, offering to kiss him would be way more hilarious).
I’d unwrap my presents, thank everybody, start to play with them until I’d fall asleep. Next morning, while English-speaking kids all over North-America would discover what they’ve got, I’d be waking up earlier than any adult in the house to play with all these goodies.
My brother, much younger, and at this moment in life when you think you should stop believing, heard bells outside that convinced him Santa Claus might actually be real. It took him two more years to stop believing, probably becoming the equivalent of that ridiculous girl in my 4th grade class that still believed in Santa, reincarnation and magic, but knew how her parents conceived her by fucking like animals...
And back then, we'd even celebrate Epiphany!
Then my parents got divorced.
“More presents for us!” Said the lil’ brother. He was right. It also started to fuck Christmas up for all of us.
As the idea of a parents’ union went down the shitters, so did the idea that Christmas was a family holiday. Separating everything, but doubling the obligations, things got worse when we got girlfriends with their own set of separated parents. What used to be a simple, enjoyable, gratifying party became a logistical mess with ramifications transcending the traditional holiday season, or, god forbids if the relationship lasted long enough, years!
Years of telling bad jokes in the middle of a bunch of people wondering what you’re actually doing there, unless they realized you could be a good hockey coach to their son, that suddenly became your nephew.
So, the gratification was obtained through other means: A stressful job with a shitload of money, and therefore, a shitload of debts. What was the job? Dealing with other people’s debts. The result: Thinking I’d die from a heart attack on my first holiday day off, drinking way too much cola in a crowded theatre, watching a fucked up movie. I woke up on Christmas Eve’s eve at the hospital, a worried girlfriend asleep in that uncomfortable chair beside my regularly beeping bed. I spent Christmas Eve at mom’s looking for my pulse, and the next day looking for an opened restaurant as my mother was enjoying Christmas day at her then-boyfriend’s parent’s home.
Thinking I'd die on Christmas Eve...
Fast forward through mom’s tears and dad’s disappointments, spending many Christmas mornings unwrapping protestant presents in Southern Ontario, getting upset at the girlfriend when she told me her orthopaedist father could help me with my flat feet and some very shitty Boxing Day shopping, to us coming back to our downtown Montreal apartment for New Year’s Eve. That trendy holiday that became more about friends than family. Us, a trendy multicultural couple, center of many people’s social life(mostly her though, I was merely an accessory), shitting alternatively because we've got sick beyond belief, exchanging each other New Year’s wishes through a washroom door, asking the other if he/she was about done...
Usually, we were not, and in the end, it was a great night!
Later, I traveled through the holidays, as far away as possible. Trying to forget the ex-girlfriend, but only upsetting my mother for not being around. I had good times, things were different, but it contributed to make Christmas less family-friendly.
Years later, I made it back home, enjoying Christmas with mom and her very nice boyfriend, and his daughters that, well, at least looked like they despised me, their respective boyfriends (one very pretentious geek and the other being the “boyfriend of the week”), and a brother with a new eager girlfriend.
Me? Happily single!
This year, the story is quite simple, I went to Toronto for my tree-planting employer’s Christmas party, got wasted with friends, then with more friends over the weekend. Good times and train rides.
And here I go again with the silly hats and amazing sweaters!
Then, I came back home for a simple, dual Christmas dinner over a few days with my two sets of parents. Two days before Christmas, I was having lunner (a lunch-dinner mix) with a tree-planting friend who was stuck in Montreal for a few days after her Toronto-Halifax flight was cancelled midway (Blame Air Canada) when I got the shitty call:
My mother was in the hospital.
So, here I was, calling my brother to plan a visit, getting updates from my mom’s fiancé (they are set to get married, and I fucking hope they will). As we visited the crowded suburban hospital, the whole idea of Québec’s (Or Canada’s) healthcare system being similar to third world countries went down the drain. I could witness first-hand how well my mother was treated, despite the late hour and the busy time of the year. It looked like a Scrubs episode; Competent, relatively good-looking staff all-around, funny and sad, lots of losers. Plus, I'd hit a few of the girls working there if it wasn't that creepy and innapropriate!
The good news was that my mother would get out on Christmas Eve. The bad news was that, just like Scrubs, it doesn’t always have a nice ending. My mother will indeed stay at the hospital for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and, thankfully, Boxing Day, but at least it will allow the very competent staff to run every test they can to make sure my mom’s condition will improve or will be completely resolved.
With such a background, you'd understand it could be easy to hate the holidays. Instead, here I am, alone in my apartment on a shitty Christmas morning, writing that story, and feeling happy about the current outcome.
Well, strangely, it’s all about being thankful, for you see, all of these Christmases could have been much worse. I never asked why all this shit happens to me because, ultimately, I know I’ve been bad. Quite bad, this year included, still the asshole, still the occasional liar.
Yet, I’ve never lost a family member, never experienced death and always been smiling though the worst times. I always knew it’d get better and I still believe so.
You know why?
Because Christmas isn’t about Santa punishing bad kids, it’s about faith, no matter what you make out of it.
Because if there’s something I’ve learned, it’s that if you believe in the power of prayer, it shouldn’t be wasted on your own little person, winning more money or keeping the traffic lights green while you’re passing through. Instead, pray for these poor dudes in real deep shit, in third world countries, the sick kids, all the lonely people you don’t know. That’s sharing, that’s giving, that’s being generous.
So, I don’t really know if it’s because someone actually died for my sins thousands of years ago, or out of plain, sheer luck, but I’m thankful for all that stuff I didn’t enjoy enough.
And I’m glad I didn’t pray for my sole purposes...
Get well soon mom. Je t'aime.
And Merry Christmas!