I can’t pretend that everything is okay between us any longer, so please, hear me out.
Remember when we first met? Mother spoke of you with great enthusiasm, promising that if I was good and ate everything on my plate on Christmas Eve, you’d leave presents under the tree.
She killed a carp in your honor—the same one that had been swimming in our bathtub only hours before. “Fresh is how you want it,” she had said, and whacked it over the head with the meat tenderizer. Thankfully, that was the only year carp was on the menu. I hated the fishy, slimy texture of it, and I think Mom did too, with the bones and all.
On the eve of your arrival, I put on my prettiest dress and spent extra time in front of the mirror, making sure my hair wasn’t flyaway and there were no crusties in the corners of my eyes. Mom and Dad dressed up too, and I caught them looking at each other with that softness around their eyes that told me everything was alright.
I really liked how you did that for us, Christmas.
You arrived smelling of cedar and vanilla cookies, and the tree in the living room glowed with real candles. When the sparklers exploded in the branches that night, I caught a glimpse of you for real, inside all that light.
Years went by and I was loyal to you, always. I had a family of my own by then and vowed to make you as special to them as you were to me. I wanted so much to please you, Christmas. I only ever decorated a real tree, because I knew you liked that best. I’d buy organic turkeys from the farmer’s market and learned how to brine them in the kitchen sink. There were homemade pumpkin pies crowned with fresh whipped cream, ruby cranberry sauce—never out of a can—and artisan bread for the stuffing. I had spent hours picking out the perfect gifts, and welcomed family to the dinner table.
I wanted my kids to have only the best memories of you.
I continued loving you, but you wanted more every year. I indulged Santa Claus, although secretly, I said to myself: What a strange custom, to tell kids a big, fat man will be creeping around the house in the middle of the night, eating our food in exchange for presents.
Regardless, I read, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas aloud, dragged the kids to the mall to sit on a strange man’s knee, watched endless reruns of Charlie Brown, and told elaborate lies about how Santa could possibly fit down the stove pipe, since we didn’t have a proper chimney. I left sugar cookies and milk out for him and my husband penned elaborate thank you notes, pretending to be the would-be Santa. I didn’t mind all the work because I knew you were worth the joy I saw in my children’s faces.
But in all honesty, Christmas, the joy has all but gone out of me.
You arrive earlier and earlier each year, it seems. Carols start playing on the radio in November, and the trees at the mall pop up overnight, right after Halloween. I don’t know who you are any more—and I wonder if maybe you don’t either.
You remind me of Facebook. Is that strange? At first, you were all about connecting loved ones far and wide, and now, it’s all about selling, advertising, propaganda. Facebook elves secretly watching our every Google move and tricking us into buying things we don’t need.
You have to admit, you are not that much different. You’ve grown fat and greedy, demanding everyone buy more to celebrate you. You want us to believe that you are all about tradition, but in reality, you hide behind societal norms and proper etiquette. You don’t seem to care about the simple things any more.
You’ve forgotten your name has love in it. Do you still care about love? Or have you sold yourself out to the advertisements that exalt your name. You want us believe that the more stuff we give, the more love we’ll receive—and that, my dear Christmas, is the worst betrayal of all.
Deep down, I know you are in there somewhere, underneath all the expectations and the glitzy ads and commercials. I want you to know that the little girl in me still believes in you.
Yesterday I strung up lights in the shape of snowflakes that cascade down my living room window. They’re cheery and remind me of the you I once knew, and I think maybe not all is lost. I even bought a tiny tree that waits for my daughter to decorate it when she comes home from university. I caught myself humming a Christmas carol on my way home from the grocery store and when I saw the far-out light show the neighbor has pulled off in his front yard, I couldn’t help but smile.
Let’s start over, then. Let’s return to the place of quiet where I can hear you in the silence of the falling snow, and glimpse your spirit in the lights of the tree. Let’s share a simple meal with loved ones and give of ourselves without being ruled by expectations and fear of disappointment. Let me love you in a way that is meaningful to me.
Yours with affection,