It seems insane. All of the months of preparation, planning, and doing that are aimed at one day–just one day, and then, just like that, it’s over in twenty four hours, or more likely, in just twelve–or fewer. The decorations, the gifts, the dinner–each representing untold hours of effort in making it all “just right.” Is it ever “just right,” and if it is, who notices?
Christmas fever–or angst–seems to get built into our systems by years of experience and exposure. Even if we are not directly responsible for what goes into that one all-important day, assuming that we have been at least partially responsible for it at one time or another, many of us remain forever marked with a conditioned anxiety that pervades our being starting at Thanksgiving and until “the day” has passed. I speak from experience. Christmas approaches, I have no responsibilities, but whenever I go into a store, even the grocery store, I feel the tension everywhere, most notably in my own being–the sweaty palms, the tightening in the stomach, the clenched jaw–it seems to be a disease passed from one human to the next just by their having shared the same air, which is why I try to avoid shopping in December as much as I can, although I still have to eat.
The Europeans seem to have a better handle on all of this. They, at least, spread the Christmas celebration out over several days instead of just relegating it to one solitary day of a break in the hysteria, as is the custom here. Today is the 26th of December and we in the U.S. are right back in the stores we reluctantly left at closing just two days ago, some of us arriving there in the pre-dawn hours just to be on the front lines of the charge to return the gifts we didn’t want and to snatch the post-holiday mark-downs off the shelves. This seems to be what Christmas has come to be for so many–a mega shopping spree. I find that depressing.
I can’t imagine any of this is going to change, so immersed are the masses in the material world, which is why I choose to retreat from the fray and do my own thing in a very quiet and reflective way. Without getting into any of the religious aspects of Christmas (and I know some say there are only religious aspects, but then they are also often among the ones frantically flailing about to make it all happen), my retreat from the mania is what brings me peace and makes me happy. It’s a choice, and for me finding that feeling of peace and calm, and of escaping, if only for a while, the madness that is the reality of our world is what Christmas is about. And even so, it still seems it’s all over so soon.