With Thanksgiving past, Advent and the holiday season begins. I’m not feeling it.
With Thanksgiving over, it seems that most people just couldn’t wait to throw themselves head-first into the winter holiday season. All day yesterday, my Facebook feed was full of photos of people putting up multiple trees, videos for making holiday goodies, and references to buying and wrapping presents. Whee! Joy! Festivities! Oh, and did I mention that the largest holiday light display in Indianapolis is right next door to us, literally, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway? Yeah, it’s a bit bright over there.
In case you’ve not been keeping track of just how many holidays there are this month, let me give you the rundown:
- Advent started yesterday and goes through December 24.
- St. Nicholas day is December 6.
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception is December 8.
- Muslims celebrate the Prophet’s Birthday on December 12 this year.
- Winter Solstice occurs on December 21
- This year, both Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah are on December 25.
- Kwanzaa begins December 26 and goes through January 1.
Depending on where you live and your religious preferences, one might toss Boxing Day, Second Christmas, and Festivus in there as well. This, dear children, is why it is more polite to greet someone with “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas.” There is no war on the Christian holiday. Rather, people who mind their manners and are respectful of their fellow human beings know better than to assume the religious preferences of one they don’t personally know.
Of course, there is always Krampus as an alternative, but Americans have been slow to get behind the Austrian tradition. If you ask me, this would seem to be the year to do so. Here’s what Herrenbrun, Austria looked like this weekend:
What It Takes To Be Festive
One does not just exit the Thanksgiving holiday and automatically fall into all the warm and mushy feelings that are supposed to come with holiday festivities. Such emotions have to be cultivated. Expectations have to be met. One has to have a spirit of hopefulness, an optimism for good things to come. I’m not there. I’m not sure I’m going to get there.
I know more than a few people who are just natural optimists. I love them, but at this time of year, they rather drive me mad. They’ve already pulled out their holiday sweaters. They’ve decorated multiple trees. They have lights hanging everywhere and from everything, including the pets. They have hot cocoa at the ready and if they’re really in touch with the holiday, a bottle of scotch for chasing the chocolate. These are wonderful, beautiful, loving people. Yet, seeing all their festiveness and overflowing happiness does not cause any of that emotion to rub off onto me. Instead, it awakens the cynic in me, making me want to do nothing more than grab the scotch and a handful of cookies and run.
Being festive requires that either one has a sense that all is right with the world, or at least set aside its horrors and worries for the better part of a month. I’m not able to do that, especially this year. Between now and the end of December, we will have to deal in some fashion with the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL). Normally, we’d all but ignore the Electoral College meetings on December 19, but this year there’s even drama around that typically boring event. And people will die. I don’t know who or how or why, but they will die and we will be sad and reminded of our mortality. I find it hard to be festive in the midst of all that.
The Cloud Of Reality
Perhaps I am the only one feeling this way, but I seem to be tethered to this cloud of reality that denies me of any chance to be hopeful or encouraged about the future. Sure, I’d love to be so thrilled with life that I felt compelled to bake a different cookie every day. There have been years where I’ve done that. I know the feeling. This year, however, to think of baking sweets reminds me that Americans, and especially Hoosiers, and even more especially I myself, are all overweight. Diabetes is a real threat. After Thanksgiving, I’m seriously watching my blood sugar level. Reality prevents me from baking cookies.
Other years I’ve been pumped to give people gifts. I’m old enough to remember when online shopping first became a thing. I loved it! There was one year I’m pretty sure at least half our gift-giving budget was spent online. Giving other people gifts, being generous and sharing from our abundance, is a fantastic feeling. Reality, however, puts a lock and chain on my wallet. Our belts are tight. We’ve already taken care of things for the kids and I’ll have small things for Kat and my boys, but there’s no extravagance. If we had a tree, it would look bare. We can’t afford a tree and even if we could, we don’t have enough space and we have four very rambunctious cats. We don’t even have ornaments.
This cloud of reality is more like a thunderstorm. Revenue was down again this year. I’ve not shot anything fun in months. The number of colleagues and friends who are considering getting out of the photography business is so large that I question whether I’m foolish to keep trying. I’ve hit a creative desert where none of my ideas or concepts are able to grab any traction. Towels are just waiting to be thrown.
The Tea Kettle Sings
My tea kettle just whistled at me, letting me know the water is ready for yet another round of coffee in the french press. I’ve been up since 1:30 this morning; it wasn’t voluntary. I’ll need all the coffee I can consume just to get me through the first part of the day. There have been too many days this year where coffee has been all that has kept me going. The sound of the tea kettle singing brings a small but critical amount of joy.
All is not lost. I may yet gain the holiday spirits, or at least consume enough holiday spirits to fake it. Kat finishes school this month. I have my youngest son with me. The dog has calmed down enough he can sleep on our bed at least a portion of the time. Kittens hilariously trip over my shoes as they chase each other across the floor. Life is not wholly void of hope.
Today, however, I’m not there. I probably won’t be there next week, either. The festive spirit takes time to cultivate and I’m stubborn ground for trying to grow anything. Maybe after the full moon on the 17th and the passing of the Winter Solstice I’ll feel more like celebrating something. Anything.
Until then, it’s Fa La La La Humbug all up under this cloud of reality. Deal with it.