Brian Broome is the author of "Punch Me Up to the Gods"
I hate Christmas.
We don’t speak up, us holiday haters. We tend to keep our feelings to ourselves. We endure the commercial breaks that remind us that “Every kiss begins with Kay" and watch as still more beautiful people are surprised by enormous red bows on top of expensive cars. We watch the advertisements for Hallmark movies in which some successful yet unhappy woman moves to a small town and discovers the “true meaning of Christmas” by meeting some working-class dude for whom she will upend her entire life just because he gives her a snow globe.
But, this year, I’d like to be heard. Not everyone is down for all this glee.
I come from a Christian family, and I recognize the significance of the holiday. I know the backstory; as a child, in a church play, I turned in quite a nuanced performance as a camel. But I hated Christmas even then because my family didn’t have money. We got practical presents in the good years: A scarf, new mittens, socks and, of course, the dreaded underpants. Our holiday tree glowing bright in the middle of the living room was a beacon to disappointment.
I didn’t like Christmas in part because the steel mill where my father worked had closed. That news did nothing to stop the commercials with shiny, happy, children opening reams of colorful paper to reveal the things that they’d always wanted. The ads seemed to suggest that the more stuff you got, the better person you were. I learned through those commercials that good people got presents and that my family was trash. I took it into me every year like communion.
Sometimes, I wonder what essential part of me is missing. I know that Christmas is supposed to be about family. But as I grew to adulthood and became my own person, I found that family can be challenging when thrust upon you all at once.
Each year around this time, I find it more difficult to balance the awful things we see happening the rest of the year with the joy I’m supposed to drum up near the end of it. With age, it’s harder for me to reconcile the good will we’re supposed to feel toward each other at the holidays with the horrible way we treat each the rest of the year. It just feels fake.
You may have a loved one who seems out of sorts this time of year. I ask only that you try to understand that this forced cheer can exacerbate feelings of despair. For some, the sound of Mariah Carey’s "All I Want for Christmas is You" portends a dark time where we feel the need to force something that just isn’t within us. That’s partly why, each year, I give to and support an organization that provides children from struggling families with toys. I give them as much of my money and time as I can afford. I don’t want any child to feel like I did when something shiny wasn’t beneath the tree.
There have even been years when I have skipped Christmas completely, taken advantage of the fact that the whole country is shut down and silent, and spent the day watching horror movies alone and eating Chinese take-away. Someone you know, and love, may prefer this option.
For those who hate the holidays, I stand with you. I understand and know what you’re going through. If you are like me, you are strapping in again, steeling yourself for the onslaught the way others might for a hurricane. I just try to ride it out.
And for those of you who don’t love it but choose to participate anyway, you have my sympathies. Just put on your colorful sweater, grab some liquor in fine glassware and slap on a smile. The world will be back to normal before you know it.