Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot….But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville, Did NOT! –Dr. Seuss
And so it begins: The annual count down to the holiday of holidays. The culmination of a year’s worth of dreaming and wishing and wrapping and shopping. ‘Tis the season; for mulled wine and candlelight, for friends and family gathered around the table, for twinkling lights and wishes for days merry and bright. Straining stomachs stuffed with goodies, children with velvety, chocolate-sugared lips, rosy cheeks and yuletide and God rest ye merry gentleman. Fa la la la la. La la la la.
Unless you are me, in which case the holiday season feels like one, big ball of anxiety tied up in sting and a mess of tangled tree lights. Packages that need collecting, meals planned, grab bags stuffed, gifts to be wrapped, cards sent, chestnuts roasted and all the rest. All the while pretending that you enjoy rocking around the Christmas tree and spreading good will for all mankind.
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
Every year I promise not to let the whole thing get to me. Every year I fail. I am an epic Christmas failure. There are no cute wreaths made of my children’s discarded art work. The halls are not decked, the fire is not bright. The stockings are hung, but that’s about it. No bowls of Christmas spices scattered around making sure there really is no place like home for the holidays. I am not scouring Pinterest for cute stocking stuffer ideas and ways to make my home full of good cheer. And while I am at it, screw you Pinterest for making us feel like we need to craft our way into holiday cheer and feeling inadequate when our handmade ornaments look more like the StayPuft Marshmallow Man than Frosty. I’m not brewing spiced wine or apple cider or drawing up blueprints for a gingerbread house. The very idea of an elf on a shelf and having to move it every night fills me with dread.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
Far from the season of holly-jolliness, Christmas fills me with apprehension. I fret over how much to buy for my children who have more than enough; who need nothing but want for so much. My anxiety manifests itself in threats of working in soup kitchens and donating all of their Christmas gifts, of coal in stockings and phone calls to the North Pole. Yet at the same time, I want my children to experience those magical Christmas memories, those mornings of excitement and anticipation, of waking up Christmas morning to rip through a package and find waiting there the thing you longed for most. I want them to believe for a little while longer in fairy dust and flying reindeer and fat men in red suits who squeeze themselves down the chimney with care. Of course I also want them to wake up on Christmas morning, eschew all material goods and declare that love and family are all you need, but I am fooling myself. It’s the Star Wars Lego Republic Gunship they want, not warm socks and a hug from Great Aunt Betty. They aren’t selfish, greedy kids. They’re just kids. I fret nonetheless, trying to find the sweet spot between bringing the magic and paving the way for brat-dom.
But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
I fret about the effects of over-saturation. There is a fine line between decorative holiday cheer and it looking as if The Christmas Tree Shop vomited its holiday surplus all over your house. I worry about starting too soon. The Danes begin decorating in early November. By the time Christmas actually rolls around, it feels as if you’re being strangled in fir garlands and drowning in gløgg. Pine needles are dropping like flies and the kids have already been off for nearly two weeks before the night before Christmas. Those visions of sugar plums are have longed turned into prunes.
Every Who down in Who-ville, the tall and the small, was singing!! Without any presents at all!
My husband adores Christmas. My sister loves Christmas. My children and their friends all salivate over the very idea of Christmas. My own friends festoon their homes with sparkling lights and host lovely parties, go into the Danish forest and cut down their own trees, wish on stars for a white Christmas, while I plot like the Grinch to stop it from coming. It never works. Those Whos down in Who-ville sing regardless.
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more.”
Ah, the brilliance of Dr. Seuss. Even at 43 I appreciate the wisdom in his rhyme, the lessons cloaked in cadence. For though I won’t wake up on Christmas day and grab the small hand of the Who next to me and start singing, I will watch my children open their gifts with the kind of glee that fades with adolescence. I know that once the day of days is here and we are all settled down to a feast of Who pudding and some rare roast beast, I will feel the warm, rosy glow for a little while, and not just from the wine. My children will loll about stuffed with chocolate and cakes. I hope they are grateful–not only for their gifts, but for their family and their fortune, and most of all for the fact that their mother tears her hair out to perpetuate the magic a little longer. We will have family and friends and food. We will light our tacky Christmas lights and listen to O Holy Night, think up silly words to Rudolph, put together puzzles and play new games. Yes, I will panic that they are being spoiled. I will fret about the bags and bags of wrapping paper. I will be exhausted and sport paper cuts on my fingers from last-minute wrap jobs. But by the time I crawl into bed, I will yet again think that maybe my heart isn’t as small as I think it is every time the season rolls around.
Until next year.
And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight, He whizzed with his load through the bright morning lights And he brought back their toys! And the food for the feast! And he…HE HIMSELF….! The Grinch carved the roast beast!
For last year’s thoughts about the holidays, try one of these posts