Christmas is a fraught time for me. I tend to say I don’t like it. I commonly find myself anxious and sad all through December, despite all my decorating, despite putting up multiple trees, despite enjoying the lights and songs and smells and excitement.
I’ve dubbed the condition of both enjoying the holidays and being made sad by them the melanjollies, a nice little portmanteau of melancholy and being jolly.
Can’t enjoy Christmas because you’re stressed about family? You might be melanjolly!
Terrified of the credit card bill once you’re done buying gifts for everyone and their cousins? You’re probably melanjolly, too!
So why do I get the melanjollies every year? Easy. I don’t like being told I need to buy things. I think it’s a season out of hand, and people have lost their god damn minds over it. It’s rabid consumerism and that rubs me all the wrong ways, not to mention stressing over the money outlay and making sure I remembered everyone under the sun. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure each gift is thoughtful and useful and something they’ll like.
My cure for the melanjollies used to be tying one on every Christmas eve—drinking a lot of whiskey, trying to get other people to drink with me, and doing things like falling up the stairs. Yeah, you read that right. I fell up the stairs. But now I can’t drink, and where does that leave me? Why, stewing in my own emotions, of course. One big ol’ pot of Gov’s Christmas Depression.
This year, when I was griping I didn’t like Christmas, my husband called bullshit on me and he wasn’t wrong. There’s so much I do actually enjoy about the holiday. I like the lights. I love the trees, the foods, family. I love the anticipation leading up to Christmas day, and the excitement it holds. Most of all, I love that everybody stops, even if just for the day. Stands still. Feels joy and love together. There is truly is so much to enjoy about this holiday.
And looking back on ours this year, it was really nice. Simple and low-stress, exactly what I wanted.
So what gave?
This year, our goal was to limit the gifts and the spending. My siblings and I asked the families involved if we could not exchange gifts (save for the kid.) My husband and I got each other one thing. For my son, I painted him a picture, and his dad got him one gift.
It was amazing how much that lowered my stress instantly. Without having to buy dozens of presents, without feeling obligated to spend a ton of money, I felt more able to just sit back and enjoy all the things that make the season great. We didn’t go to the malls, we didn’t hit the stores, didn’t order boxes full of stuff from Amazon.
We watched movies together. Listened to to the kid butcher Christmas songs with reckless abandon. Drank tea and read books by the fire.
It really was everything I wanted for Christmas.
I’m hoping that we can continue this tradition going forward, remember that keeping things small is key to getting the most out of the holidays.
And if not, well, maybe one day I’ll be able to drink again.