Yes, you read that correctly. Sometimes, Christmas sucks.
Now before you jump on your Christian high horse and tell me Christmas is a time for peace, hope and joy when we celebrate the birth of our beloved Savior—I know all that. I believe. I celebrate. I’ve been a born-again Christian since 5th grade when I took the hand of my best friend, Dana Joyce, and tearfully joined Brother Taylor’s calling on that Wednesday morning chapel at Towering Oaks Baptist School. I mean, I get it. I love Him too, desperately.
But let’s face it. Sometimes as much as we want the perfect Facebook Christmas or the sappy sweet Hallmark Movie Christmas, it just doesn’t always turn out that way and I’m here to tell you—
It is okay.
Some of us, especially mothers, try so hard to make that flawless Christmas card photo (you know the one—your daughter’s eyes are closed but you look skinny in that pose so that’s the one you use? —you know what I’m talking about). We kill ourselves to get that last person, who we barely know, a gift. We wrestle messy piping bags and bake cakes that stick and cookies that look more like something out of a Tim Burton Christmas movie than anything that would have ever visited the Baby Jesus, and then throw them out to the squirrels a week later when no one eats them. We wrap for hours, nights alone, in the cold basement with the elusive “critter” down there, just hoping it doesn’t jump out from under some giant piece of gift wrap. We decorate until our knuckles are bloody from scratchy garland and twisted wires.
And we drive…we drive around hunting for star anise for one recipe, gift cards for the “impossible” people (aka teenagers), to the mall, to three places looking for a suitable tree, back to the mall again, to Urgent Care because someone always gets sick or bitten by a dog in the middle of the holidays, to the craft store for ribbon whose shelves look like it’s Soviet Russia, and it’s only December 10th. We drive to four stores because someone needs a new dress or shoes for Christmas Eve church service. We drive to deliver fourteen homemade cheeseballs, because we started that nightmare a few years back, and now all your friends and neighbors refer to them as “a tradition.”
And then it’s here. Christmas Day.
We’re exhausted, but we’re thinking “We did it. It’s all finally done, and now it’s going to be perfect.”
No it’s not. You know why it’s not?
Because no matter how hard you try, sometimes Christmas sucks.
Sometimes, your grandmother dies on Christmas Eve, and it’s the year 1957, and you end up driving all the way to Louisiana on Christmas day on only half a prayer because no gas stations are open.
Sometimes it’s the coldest winter on record and the pipes under the house freeze and then burst and there are no plumbers working, and you have to go to a nearby motel to shower and get water to cook Christmas dinner.
Sometimes right before Christmas your beloved family member passes away after fighting colon cancer for 8 years, and your heart hurts for her husband and children.
Sometimes the dog knocks over the cage of finches, and they all fly around the room and end up hiding in the Christmas tree.
Sometimes your sweet daddy passes away just a week before Christmas, and his last words are “I’m gonna be spending Christmas with your mama in heaven,” and you miss him terribly on Christmas day.
Sometimes the baby goat named Ike, who was in the house because of the cold, knocks over the Christmas tree and breaks all the ornaments and lights.
Sometimes the annoying relatives who you told to come at 4:00 for dinner show up at 10:30– ready to eat.
Sometimes your aunt includes a lovely little note in your Christmas gift about how much she realized she missed you as she was standing in line to buy your gift. And you burst into tears as you read it Christmas morning, because you live in California, three thousand miles away from her.
Sometimes you find your beloved cat, Charles, curled up under the tree Christmas morning dead from feline leukemia, and you can’t bury him because the ground is six feet of permafrost, so you have to put him in the kitchen freezer– until spring.
Sometimes a kid vomits all over everything.
Sometimes everyone wakes up Christmas morning with pink eye. And you’re in London.
Sometimes your kid gets head lice. And you’re still in London.
Sometimes your sister-in-law gets unusually drunk and starts dropping the f-bomb in front of everyone on Christmas only to find out shortly afterwards that she’s divorcing your brother but none of you knew it—ahhh, ding-ding, ok that makes sense now.
Sometimes you have to commit your best friend to a rehabilitation facility and you’re somber because even though it was the right thing to do, you know she is spending Christmas alone and scared.
Sometimes your heart aches for your son who hasn’t found his way yet, and has returned home from college unexpectedly leaving you with questions about his future.
Sometimes you’re heart broken, but overwhelmingly proud, because your son isn’t with you this Christmas since the Navy says he can’t come home.
Sometimes you’re heart broken because your son will never be with you at Christmas again. Ever. And even spending Christmas Eve at the Ritz Carlton can’t bedazzle that heartache out of you.
Sometimes the visiting puppy has diarrhea all over the presents under the tree.
Sometimes your $100 Christmas roast comes out dry. Your kids don’t like their gifts. Your husband gives you an XL size teal-colored bathrobe even though you give him a Corvette for Christmas (Husbands, it’s all good, just don’t wait until Christmas Eve to shop for your wife is all I’m saying here).
And sometimes– the champagne is flat when you go to pour your Christmas morning mimosa.
Now, admitting some of these are definitely First World problems (if your problem includes the word “champagne,” you’ve pretty much lost the right to complain), it all still happens. And it all can make your Christmas suck sometimes. Some things on that list are far more significant than others, and not all Christmases have those events, but sometimes because we’re so pressured to achieve the perfect Christmas, even the smallest thing can make us want to scream and claw our face. We leave very little room for errors of any kind on Christmas, because we try so hard to thwart them all ahead of time thinking that if we just “think of everything” or “do everything” nothing can go wrong. Sometimes our expectations can rank right up there with the lofty hopes of finding a pregnant Virgin.
Then after the day is passed we are left with a mess in every room, tighter clothes, aching feet, dirty dishes, uneaten candy and cookies, credit card bills, and a couple of dead poinsettias.
Honestly, it can sometimes be a bit of a let down.
I’ve never been a person who relied on a big blow out celebration on New Year’s Eve to prove that I was someone of relevance. It never mattered to me if I was out counting down the seconds and kissing someone or home in my pajamas, awake at midnight or asleep by 10pm. New Year’s day I never cared if we ate the traditional black-eyed peas and collard greens for luck and money, because some years, ones that we ended up eating pizza, were some of my family’s best, most blessed years. So who knows?
But I do think where New Year’s placement is on the calendar is so welcomed and well-timed.
It’s right after Christmas when you have no mental steam or physical strength left. Its very promise of potential is relieving if you can find a way to let it be. Reassuring that there is a future for us, another chance, another stab at success, an impending blessing, another boost of fresh energy and positive vibes that could be headed our way for the next twelve months and another chance at having the perfect Christmas next year.
And if not, if Christmas sucks again next year, then that’s ok too.
Happy New Year!
(and just for the record our Christmas didn’t suck)