When I was a kid, every Christmas morning, I got up, went downstairs to the living room, had one look at all the gifts under the sparkling tree, and ended up tossing my sugar cookies. Once that was all cleaned up, I would open my first gift with a bucket beside me, which I often ended up using. After I got through the first few gifts, then my stomach would settle down. Likely because it was overrun with guilt-- guilt for puking and ruining Christmas for my family, guilt for not feeling grateful enough, etc, etc.)
Anyway, my point is, I used to love Christmas. (Especially once I outgrew the whole vomiting thing, which happened around the same time I found out about Santa. I'm sure these two things are not unrelated.)
Then I grew up and had kids. The first few Christmases were great. Exciting. I loved everything about Christmas-- decorating, baking, anticipating the boys' faces on Christmas morning, a slice of Christmas cake with a cup of tea in the afternoon. Then we hit upon hard times, real hard times. There were days when I had to decide between buying food or buying toilet paper. (Let me tell you, that was not an easy choice.) Buying food or buying gas to get to work. Buying food and choosing which bills to let slide another month. You can imagine the hard choices during gift-giving seasons. There were a lot of homemade gifts for a while.
Thankfully, the hard times were short lived, but unfortunately, the damage had been done. I suffered from post-traumatic shopping disorder, and holidays were the worst, even when we could easily afford to buy gifts again. I would be in the store, looking over price tags, getting sick to my stomach, thinking "I don't know about this. I mean, it's a perfect gift, but what if something happens next week and we can't afford to buy food again? What then? Then I'll hate myself for buying this gift." I would have panic attacks while standing in the check out line. My post-trauma was so bad I felt sick just putting up a Christmas tree-- it was like the tree symbolized all my anxiety: "Could we even afford Christmas this year? And what about the weeks after Christmas? Will we be able to pay our bills? What if there's no work over the winter?" And the lights-- the Christmas lights-- "Will we be able to pay the hydro bill?"
Anyway, my point is, for a long time, I hated Christmas.
This year I decided I've had enough of my own bullshit. I want to love Christmas again. I want to sit by the tree in the morning with my cup of coffee, with the lights on the tree, while it's still dark out and the kids are still asleep. I want to bake treats again. I want to listen to Christmas music and sing along-- even if it makes my kids' ears bleed.
And you know why? Because there are people I love who are not around anymore. Life is too short to be worried about Christmas. Just being around for the holiday is good enough. Everything else is gravy. Life is too short to be hung up on my own anxieties. I only have to do the parts of Christmas that make me happy. (Sorry, but you're not getting a Christmas card this year. Sorry, but I didn't see your float in the parade because I didn't go because I hate standing around in the cold. Sorry, but I don't own an ugly Christmas sweater and I'm never going to because I don't see the point. And many more 'no's to many more things.)
I put up the Christmas tree and for the first time in years, I felt happy about it. So I put up two more Christmas trees. (Three, if you count the little light-up one on the porch.) Four trees. I love it.