What if Christmas isn’t so merry?

I am decorating the Christmas tree in my Hanukkah pyjamas.

My new Hanukkah pyjamas

Two more sleeps ’til Christmas is upon us. The tree is up, the presents are wrapped, and our carol-singing Snoopy adorns our coffee table. There’s one mysterious box under the tree that I can’t identify despite all the shaking and fondling. Oh, that Santa is a mischievous sort.

Turns out the line for Santa was very short at our local mall the other day. I’m sure he was the real Santa–his “Ho Ho Ho!” reverberated all the way down the hall. I imagine that within fifteen minutes or less I could have been sitting on his knee, asking him what was in that mysterious box. (I’d already written him the letter so he knew what I wanted, but I figured, as an all-knowing chap, he could tell me what I’d actually received.) But I thought the others in line, parents and children alike, might think it strange were I to hop into Santa’s lap, so I kept walking. A Christmas first I’ll save for another time.

In my limited exposure to Christmas traditions over the past several years, I’ve learned that people long for happy celebrations but many of those festivities are anything but merry. In the lead up to Christmas over the years, I’ve had many discussions with clients about how to get through the holiday season.

We all know the typical stresses. Deciding whether or not to travel home, finding the perfect gift for Aunt Sally, having enough money to get through the season, and managing the family conflict at the Christmas table. But those are merely the tip of a very large iceberg.

Christmas is so emotionally charged, and this year, a number of our friends are dealing with significant losses. The specifics aren’t important to you–loss takes so many forms–but I anticipate these friends will struggle at some point over the holidays. Sadly there’s nothing we can do to take that struggle away, except to be there in whatever way we can.

Traditions change over time, for good reasons and bad. Maybe mom isn’t well enough to make the turkey this year, or maybe she won’t even be at the table because of illness or death. Most important, I think, is to acknowledge those changes and create traditions that honour your past and your present. You may have to learn how to cook a turkey, or you could make ham instead because it’s easier. (It is easier, isn’t it? I don’t really know. I don’t recall a lot of ham for Passover.) When I try to pretend things are unchanged when I know they’re not, I feel worse, not better.

If Sadness has taught me anything, it’s that when things are tough, I’ll move through it faster if I wallow for a bit first. It’s okay to be sad this holiday if you need to, knowing that next year will likely be easier. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling so you don’t feel so alone. And if all else fails, I’d be glad to loan you Sadness. Whatever it takes to get Joy back in the picture.


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