The best Christmas ever

When a co-worker told me about her harried (but safely masked) holiday shopping, making a list and checking it twice for everyone in her family and her circle of friends, I listened, smiled, and nodded, and now I’ll tell you what I had the good sense not to tell her: I don’t do Christmas.

Christmas is mostly for children, ain't it? It’s excellent seeing that (rare) simple joy when a brat you maybe love unwraps a present that really, really makes ‘em momentarily happy. Can’t argue with that, so hooray for Christmas, if you're under the age of eleven — or if you're older, but actually enjoy it.

I don't enjoy it, so I don't do it. No presents, no tree, no trips home to the family.

Usually I'm happy to see my brother, my sister, my mom, all my nieces and most of my nephews — god bless ‘em, every one — but seeing all of them, all at once, for several consecutive hours, or for an entire day, maybe a weekend? Damn, that's exhausting.

For me, Christmas was a guaranteed disappointment, every year. Yet I always did the whole holiday, and came home with a hollow feeling in my gut and a satchel of stuff I didn’t need.

Until I reconsidered. It was at Thanksgiving 1987, when I announced my resignation. “I love you each and all, but I won’t be giving gifts, I’d appreciate it if you got me nothing, and I won’t be home for Christmas.”

Why? Because screw the pressure of a big holiday that’s supposed to define family and love and the best of humanity — but never does. Screw the purchase and wrapping, giving and unwrapping of mostly-unwanted presents. Screw the politics and religion — and in my family, screw the prayer and Bible readings. Screw the time and hassle, for a big event that can’t live up to the hype.

The first year I opted out was the best Christmas ever. Instead of weeks of dread before the 25th, I had weeks of calm. I didn’t send cards. I didn’t go Xmas shopping. I didn’t even watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. Come the 24th I unplugged my phone, and on the morning of the 25th I slept in, and then read a book and ate Honey Nut Cheerios. Me being me, maybe I masturbated. It was a lovely morning, and then in the afternoon I went to a movie, and treated myself to a big buttered popcorn with a free refill, and a giant Diet soda, and lots of chocolate I'd snuck into the theater.

Every year since then has also been the best Christmas ever. I skip the expectations and inevitable let-down, and instead watch a movie, and maybe have lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

After saying all that, though, I want to wish you a merry Christmas from the bottom of my heart, and I mean it, sincerely. There ain't nothing like a 10,000-watt tree in the corner, and Grandma’s strudel, and hearing all those silly songs. A lot of people love all that crap, and if it gives you a genuine feeling of family, friendship, and love, do it by golly and enjoy it with a hug from Doug.

And just as sincerely, if the Christmas season injures your mental health, gives you gift-wrapped sadness and emptiness, and every year it feels like you've failed, it’s AOK to go to the movies instead. 

updated, 12/25/2021  


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