I have a confession to make. Gird your loins, y’all, because this is going to be unpopular.
I hate Christmas. Despise, abhor, LOATHE. I am, essentially, THE Grinch.
I’m not sure when the holiday season became a burden, but in the last few years it became abundantly clear to me that Christmastime was less than a holly, jolly season of joy for my three-sizes-too-small heart.
I assume it has something to do with the fact that I am, and HAVE, SAD- seasonal affective disorder. At this time of year, my regular anxiety and depression is replaced by my “fancy Christmas anxiety” and depression. The time change is NOT my friend. The pressure to have a picture perfect, magazine worthy Christmas only compounds this.
I used to be that woman. One year, I meticulously wrapped 5,000 lights on a 6 foot fresh tree. I cried, and cussed, and cried some more. Still, year after miserable year, I fed into the mania. Sometimes I still do. As it turns out, I’m STILL that woman. Just with a hyper-realistic artificial pre-lit tree (okay- I may have restrung said tree to meet my standards). And even the decision to switch to an artificial tree to save my sanity added to my holiday hatred.
You see, I come from a long line of Southern (with a CAPITAL S, y’all) women who don’t know how to do things small. We live, we laugh, we love BIG. And we are all crazy as hell, and only sometimes in the good way. We are ya-yas, through and through. My mama was a florist when I was in elementary and middle school, and while she blessed me with her creativity, she also cursed me with design mania. She never did Christmas in half-measures, even when we were too poor to know better. My oldest sister then became the standard-bearer for the perfectly decorated holiday home. Keeping up became a competition only I knew we were participating in. I think some of you are probably vigorously nodding your heads in “OH MY GOD, ME TOO!” solidarity. I assure you, you are not alone.
The year I stopped buying a real tree was the year things really fell apart. While it was definitely easier than stringing a real tree with THOUSANDS of lights, it felt like cheating, like I was disavowing decades of decorating rules that had been ingrained in me from the cradle. But I had two littles, a full-time teaching position, a budding photography business, and NO time or patience. But you know what?
The ONLY person who cared was ME.
I still cried. And I’m still putting up that same artificial tree. The years between then and now haven’t magically become less stressful or busy. Two years ago, I didn’t put my tree up until December 19th. Last year, it almost didn’t go up at all. My home was not fully decorated until Christmas Eve. Go ahead and judge me if you want. I judged myself already, friends. But once the tree and the garlands and the assorted decor was spread throughout the house, I still cried. And then I posted the festive result on social media with a disclaimer that the house might be worthy of a magazine spread, but at the cost of my sanity. I try to keep it real, y’all.
In that same spirit, let me tell you about the sh*t show that is the 2020 holiday season. Everyone has been searching for some sort of mythical happy. Here’s how I know that particular unicorn does NOT exist. EVERYONE STARTED DECORATING FOR CHRISTMAS BEFORE THANKSGIVING. Hoo LAWD. Cue my PANIC. What? Why? *runs screaming through my house* I’M NOT READY FOR THIS KIND OF PRESSURE.
Just kidding. Mostly.
I decided to try something different. I thought that maybe my Christmas dissatisfaction happened because I’d always wait until the last minute and then try to keep up with the Joneses (or in my case, the Rousseaus). So two days before Thanksgiving, I loaded my car up with $200 of fresh cedar garlands and 20 $2 poinsettias. The next day, after dragging the boxes of decorations in from my garage, I spent two hours sobbing hysterically in my living room because guess what? I STILL hate Christmas, just three weeks earlier than usual.
What I’ve realized this year is that we need to start giving ourselves some dang GRACE. Christmas decorations make my kids happy, but they could not care less if they look better than so-and-so’s over there. Comparison is the thief of joy. Just ask the Grinch. Find YOUR holiday happy, even if it looks dramatically different than you expected.
Me? Maybe I’ll put up a 2nd tree-this one fresh and flocked- but I’m not coming disguised as (Mrs.) Santa to steal your joy. I’m just trying to find my merry, even if that involves 100 more feet of cedar garland.
Julie is a mama, wifey, teacher, writer, photographer, designer, and basket case—jack of all trades, master of none. She lives in Ascension Parish with her husband, and two hooligans (I mean, kids), and her cat, Stella. She’s an English teacher by day, and a lover of words by destiny. Her favorite word is schadenfreude. When she’s pretending she isn’t too busy to breathe, you can find her curled up in her hammock with a book.