Sometimes even the cynics can enjoy the holiday season
By Daniel BrooksPosted Dec 27, 2012
A few nights ago my friends and I were talking about Christmas. One of these friends found it easy to say that he didn’t feel the Christmas spirit anymore, and I was quick to agree. When I think about Christmas these days, I tend to think about the reasons I don’t enjoy myself. For one, the shameless viciousness of Black Friday and the bleak prospect of unexamined consumerism. Not to mention the fact that I am a terrible gift-giver. How does one buy something thoughtful for another person without risking one of those gifts that says, “I don’t really know who you are as well as I assumed?” These are the kinds of things we talked about.
My other friend, though, said something that surprised me: he still feels the holiday spirit. He also said he didn’t know why, and I came to understand that he didn’t really need a reason. I’m inclined to assume all of my friends feel more-or-less the same way I do about this time of year. The fact that this was good enough for him got me thinking that maybe I should reassess my feelings about gaudy decorations and mega-sentimentality and, worst of all, the overtly jolly Christmas tunes.
I’ve always thought that my last “real” Christmas happened six years ago after the end of my first semester of college. These were the frightening post-high school dorm room days I mostly spent avoiding my roommates because it was easier than learning the rules of football again. I was a shut-in. I was the epitome of the freshmen you see wandering around campus with that terrified puppy face.
I tell you this because I want to be clear on how much I was looking forward to Christmas that year. Returning home for even a few days to escape the relentless assault of expectation from the outside world that I’ve come to call “responsibility” was the only thing I could ask for. It took nearly six years for it to sink in, but that was the first year I hadn’t thought about what I wanted for Christmas. I can’t remember a single gift. I was simply glad to be home again, watching the same boring Christmas movies we’ve all seen year after year.
The years after that have been progressively busier and, appropriately, a little more stressful as time goes by. For me, the added stress meant I should hold on to the constant vigilance necessary to survive even through the holidays – to prepare myself for the onslaught of next semester, or the dreaded return to work after New Year’s Day. Some years I’ve even had to work straight through the holidays. My little escape plan was crumbling beneath my feet, so I let the spirit go with it.
I don’t mean to say that being cynical is some kind of curse, but I will say that once you start the process of deconstructing everything for its innate negativity then that kind of thinking can perpetuate itself. I’m not actually qualified to make any statements about how negativity works, but I’ve noticed how comfortable it is to stay in the frame of mind. Any other time of the year you might call it cynical, but during the holidays we call it “being a Grinch.”
I think that’s true for all us cynics out there. So this year I’m making it a point to think positively (this is maybe one of the most annoying things you can tell a cynic to do), and remember that you don’t really need a reason to enjoy the holidays. At the end of the day, something about this time of year just feels good.