I’m a grinch.
I hate Christmas. Well, let me correct that : I hate holidays. I hate the winter holidays. The overrated festivities and overt consumerism I have to witness has become a little too annoying for my liking. And that’s not the only reason I hate it.
See, as a kid, I always loved the holidays. We celebrated Christmas, and the day holiday vacation started, my folks would drive me over to my paternal grandparents’ house where my sister and I would spend the entirety of our holiday vacation time. Then we would put up the Christmas tree and ornaments, and arrange the Christmas cards my grandparents received neatly underneath the tree. My grandpa was one of the very few surgeons in the town they live and they have a lot of friends and family that would send them those cards and the pharmacy companies would send them complimentary gift parcels. We would arrange those under the tree as well. We’d decorate the windows with sparkly ornaments, hang the Christmas wreath at the door. Back where I’m from, a third world country, having housekeepers isn’t a luxury, it’s a norm. So their housekeeper would cook abundant amount of food. It’s always a great food festivity, comparable to that of Thanksgiving over here.
We would go to church on Christmas eve, where I would inevitably fall asleep. Christmas morning, still in our pajamas, we’d curl up in the sofas watching live broadcast of Christmas eve mass in Vatican. We would wait for each other’s turn to use the bathrooms in the house, dress up, eat breakfast and wait for the guests to arrive. My grandparents always did open house. It was always fun.. we would make little gifts to give away to our guests.
We didn’t have any gift-giving tradition. And to this day I’ve never thought of it as being an integral part of Christmas. Getting to spend some really fun, precious time with family was always present enough for me. The food was always great. The housekeeper would line up the buffet spread on the table, heated throughout the day by food warmer.
In my ninth grade, my grandfather, the rock of our family, passed away. He was only 65. Things quickly went downhill from there. My grandmother isn’t the best people-person, and she hasn’t always been good to her children-in-laws, resulting in their hesitance to spend too much time with her during the holidays. The friends who usually came to the open house would come less and less throughout the years that followed. The cards still arrived, though the gift parcels not so much, most of the pharmacy companies have learned of my grandfather’s passing.
My sister and I would always make a point to be there for Christmas. We still put up the tree, arrange the cards. We didn’t go to church on the eve anymore, we went with our grandmother in the morning of the Christmas. She’s much too exhausted to go to the eve mass. The food remained wonderful. The time we spent together remained lovely.
Then off I moved across the sea, to college. I spent my first Christmas away with a few friends taking off on a roadtrip to a nearby metropolis city that was covered with snow. I remember sitting on a downtown Starbucks with my fingers frozen underneath my mittens. I remember watching the city lights, the hustle-bustle of the people getting their last minute Christmas shopping done. It wasn’t a bad Christmas. My second Christmas was spent with the family of my then-boyfriend’s, graced with the presence of his meth-addict aunt and his mother, drunk after one too many glasses of wine. It wasn’t horrible. It was just surreal.
My third Christmas I was off on a roadtrip again, to a part of the country known for its unforgiving winter. I would later regret this trip, having spent so much money with people whose company I didn’t really enjoy.
After that I met my lovely husband. Our Christmases since then have been spent with his family. Maternal side on the eve, paternal side on the day of.
Somewhere along the way, between ninth grade and now, I can’t quite figure out when I fell out of love with the holidays. The charm and magic have been gone for years now. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful that I always get to spend Christmas with company, that I still have families who support me. And that now I get to have my own family to spend the holidays with.
Christmas has been more of an obligation. Obligation to spend money, obligation to feel happy. You know what? I feel much happier in the summer. I feel much happier in the Memorial Day, Independence Day, or Labor Day holidays. You don’t give gifts, you just bought some franks from the grocery store, fire up your grill and sit around your porch in your summer dress and a bottle of cold beer in your hands. Simple and unpretentious. It’s the kind of holidays you can share with anyone .. it doesn’t have to be family or lovers or close friends.. you can share a summer music festival with a stranger who happens to park his lawn chair next to yours.
It’s the kind of holidays that doesn’t leave you lonely. It’s the kind of holidays when, even spent alone, can be absolutely lovely.
Summer always has its way with me. And winter truly brings out the emo bitch in me.
Now that I have my own little family, it’s inevitable that we celebrate it. At the very least, give my kiddo some memories to remember and live by for years to come. I am not crazy about the gift-giving tradition, but I will observe it in honor of my husband and his culture. I know he’d do the same thing with me.
Now that I am agnostic and don’t go to church anymore.. we’d decide we’ll go to an opera or a winter symphony concert. That would be his gift to me. My gift to him? I don’t know yet. Maybe try to be a better person. Be less of a grinch. And maybe a book. That never goes wrong with him.
Someday we’ll move to a place where December is sunny and people celebrate Christmas in their shorts and sundresses. Where the menu is barbeque, and the drink is cold beer or light dry wine. And there’s no overrated gift giving tradition.
But until then, I’ll hold tight and get my Christmas-dinner-for-twelve-on-a-budget planning done. And get my gift shopping done.
God I hate Christmas.