What does Christmas mean to me?
This is a question that is often posed to us to get us to think about the real meaning behind Christmas, ie, love, family, peace, some religious stuff that I should know about but don’t.
I attended a Christmas concert at the West End Cultural Centre this past weekend when I seriously posed this question to myself. I was sitting with more than 100 other people enjoying the sounds of local country artist Don Amero. It was the first time I allowed myself to give into the cheer despite Starbucks’ mission to shove Christmas down our throats starting Nov. 1. I’ve always been a firm believer Dec. 1 is an appropriate time to bust out the Santa suits, Christmas trees, infectious music, and Elf on the Shelf. Plus, advent calendars begin Dec. 1 and we all know chocolate is the real saviour this season (no offence to my God-fearing friends).
With this in mind, I went to the concert with my holiday bells on and with the woman responsible for my annoying Christmas appreciation—my mother. I’m a Christmas carols junkie. Any event where I can listen to people sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” I’m there. Even better if they are professionals. It was somewhere between “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night” when I started to ponder my love of Christmas.
This time is certainly not the easiest. Many families in our own city live in poverty everyday. This is heightened when it comes to the holiday season. Mothers and fathers have to worry about putting presents under the tree when they can barely put food on the table. Some families are reminded of the ones who aren’t joining their china-adorned tables. Illness, cold weather, tragedies, Hallmark movies—all reasons this month isn’t beloved by all.
These are all reasons I understand and sympathize with when people say they hate the holidays. How could you not? But, they are also all things I’ve experienced in my own life.
There was the one Christmas I found my cat playing with something on my mattress. Upon closer inspection I saw it was a small bug. Terror sunk in. With my nose pressed to my sheets I scanned the rest of my mattress. I found a bunch of other small bugs enjoying the luxury of my fuzzy sheets. Bedbugs weren’t the expensive presents I was hoping for. I called my best friend to come help me (she dealt with them a year prior). She took my sobbing ass to Wal-Mart to buy mattress covers, garbage bags, and a vacuum. And, while I continued to sob into my Christmas Eve best she packed up my bedding and vacuumed my apartment.
There were the years my mother struggled to buy presents let alone a Christmas tree. This didn’t stop me from getting a Christmas tree up. Armed with scissors, scotch tape, markers, and a stack of construction paper, I made a paper Christmas tree the size of my six-year-old body. I taped it proudly to the wall and put my homemade presents underneath it.
And then we come to Christmas 2014. The day after spending two love-filled days, my stepfather collapsed on his bedroom floor and died suddenly and tragically. A day later I had to tell my seven-year-old brother his best friend and father died. I watched him cry into my mother’s shoulder as he tried to make sense of world-crushing news.
So, when people say the worst kinds of things happen at Christmas I believe them because I’ve lived through them. But, I wasn’t thinking of the bad ones when I was at the concert, I was thinking of the good ones.
The years of decorating with my mother (when we could afford it) while listening to Santa’s Super Hits and Elvis’ Blue Christmas. The many hampers that helped us have a Merry Little Christmas. My brother’s first Christmas.
The year my former boyfriend told me he loved me for the first time. It was the perfect snowy December evening when he blurted those three little words.
The first time I experienced Christmas on the farm. If you haven’t, I suggest you do so immediately, like this year. There’s something calming about looking out your window Christmas morning to see a field full of snow and slightly bushier and slightly straighter versions of the tree that sits in your living room.
These are the memories I choose to remember so fondly. It’s not always easy.
I’m a journalism student. I spend my days immersed in news. Some good, some fluffy, and more often than not some bad.
I’ve looked an alleged killer in the eyes as he waits to be tried (and eventually) convicted of murder. I watched a mother bury her son and my childhood friend because he couldn’t handle his life anymore. I’m working on a project about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and have listened to family members try to make sense of the pain and anger they have been unjustly dealt.
I’m not alone. Everyday we face the horrors of this thing we call life. To say I don’t let it affect me would be a lie. It’s hard, which is why I let myself give into the holiday cheer. I know life isn’t a Hallmark movie (as much as An En Vogue Christmas spoke to me on a real level). No one saves Christmas. You don’t fall in love with an architect at your work placement and Santa doesn’t come down the chimney (he/she takes out a finance plan at the local Apple store).
But, wouldn’t it be nice if all these things could happen?
What does Christmas mean to me?
It’s the one time of the year where I believe magic can happen.