A lovely thing about Christmas is that it's compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. ~ Garrison KeillorCompulsory?
The definition of compulsory is obligatory; required by a law or a rule.
Christmas as compulsory? Is Christmas required by rule? Is it obligatory?
I never thought of Christmas as anything more than a time of joy, a period of gathering with loved ones, of fun filled excitement.
As a child, I have memories of anxiously awaiting Santa's arrival, baking cookies with my sister Janet, going to the Cathedral for the Christmas Eve children's service, thinking every red light in the air was Rudolph, large family gatherings on Christmas day, family Cribbage tournaments, and finishing up the holiday with a family tradition of cards using my Dad's homemade game board and pennies for our wagers.
As a teen, I remember watching the awe of Christmas from my niece and nephews eyes, the excitement of Christmas for myself somewhat passed but still loving the large gatherings of my family, the tradition of Christmas caroling through my neighborhood with my high school field hockey team (I'm not sure how that tradition started but we did it every year while in high school). The college years were filled with Secret Santa, studying for finals, and coming home. Christmas meant meeting up with all my high school friends again.
Once I graduated, Christmas was filled with memories of Brian.....and our own traditions. As our family grew, we added more traditions. But, then Brian passed away....and so did many of those traditions.
Once Brian passed away - just a few years after my sister and father passed - Christmas no longer was joyous to me.
Christmas became compulsory....and obligation. As it still does. If it weren't for my children, I am not sure I'd even celebrate the holidays.....I'd just put my head down and move forward as quickly as possible.
We began new traditions - with friends and within our home.
But, in reality, Christmas has begun to be a chore for me. Maybe it is because the boys are getting older and aren't as excited. However, celebrating without Brian, Janet, my father, my bother-in-law Frank....and having large family gatherings I grew up with.....makes me indifferent about Christmas.
If I had the choice, I'd skip it all together. I would go on a trip. I would not decorate. I wouldn't do any shopping.
Reality....I finally got around to decorating my house today. The last one on the street with any lights and with a tree. I am certain they wondered what was wrong with me....just like they probably wonder when I am going to get around to raking my leaves, mowing my yard or weeding. It isn't that I don't want to do those things or that I am not lazy.....it is because I am not motivated. Widows still grieve at the holidays - regardless of how long it has been.
Today the tree was put up and decorated - by my daughter and I. The teenage boys no longer have interest in participating. Rachel has no memories of Christmas with her father. I missed the reminiscing with my older son as he recognized Brian's ornaments.....and both Brian and Jay's favorite - Prancer playing basketball. After I mentioned this to Rachel, we decided to honor Brian by placing a LIVESTRONG band on his favorite ornament.....a new tradition I suppose!
I want Christmas to be joyous but it is difficult.....as I am sure it is for many. I am pretty sure we are all missing someone or something - either a loved one or an important tradition.
I wonder what memories my children will have?
Perhaps this year we will come up with a new Christmas tradition.....I'm going to put some though into this. Something new so Christmas won't continue to be so difficult. So it isn't something I dread. So it isn't a chore.
Don't get me wrong - I love the celebration....love the festivities.....love the decorations.....love the music....love the meaning....love the joy.....but I just don't feel it anymore.
No, I am not the Grinch....I am not filled with "Bah Humbug."
I am a widow.....and cancer has taken the joy out of Christmas.
As you celebrate your holidays, think about those around you that have had an unfortunate change this year....or years past. Nothing extraordinary needs to be done but perhaps add them to your address list for a card, invite them to a gathering, offer to entertain the kids so they can wrap presents or finish up shopping, see if they need assistance "building" that special gift, offer to assist with getting the decorations out of the basement/attic, invite them to a day of baking, a cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop. All these have been offered to me by others over the years - and all have added "joy" to my holidays. Sometimes a little gesture is all that is needed to get in the spirit.
I can feel the dread already going away slightly just by writing this....as I sit in the glow of my Christmas tree.