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Staff column: Salvaging Christmas and its spirit

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

This year it will be hard for a lot of people to have a Merry Christmas. Economically things around the country and the world for that matter are not very good. For many the sparkle of what tinsel is on the Christmas tree will be dimmed. But regardless of what year it is, there are those that just generally don't like Christmas.

Over the years I have met many people who dislike Christmas for various reasons. I used to think the tone of how people felt about Christmas was set in their childhood; they were poor when they were kids and they didn't get much while their neighbors celebrated in a big time way or they came from an abusive family relationship where Christmas meant a lot of booze and then a lot of abuse as a result. I had generated in my mind a pretty simplistic view of why one would not like Christmas.

But with age I have come to see the dislike of Christmas as a much more complex issue than that. Up until I was 29 I had never experienced a bad Christmas. My parents made it a special time of year for our family. There was no abuse in our family and there was little rancor around Christmas. That was except when I was about 10 and my dad confronted, in front of our Christmas tree, an older man who was trying to go out with my sister who was 18 at the time. It was the maddest I had ever seen my dad get; but it was a good mad because he had the best of intentions.

When I was 29, my first true sadness at Christmas occurred. I had just gotten a divorce and my two small children were at home with their mother and her family. I didn't get to see them until the day after. But it wasn't all bad either; I got to spend the day with the woman who would spend most of the next 27 years with, my parents and my sister and her family.

In the ensuing years we have had many good Christmas seasons and some very tough ones. But in some ways those tough ones have made us appreciate the season so much more in retrospect. We have had parents and siblings die near the holidays, we have been out of work, with little money, living in poor housing and in a bad part of a big city. We have had family disputes that set one part of the family against the other and one year in the late 1980's my wife and I spent the holidays apart, due largely to my stupidity and misplaced vanity. We have had other years with other kinds of incidents that had marred holiday spirits; fires in homes we owned, water pipes broken and vehicles that broke down on the coldest of Christmas days, where I spent the day getting greasy fixing vehicles rather that sitting around the tree enjoying my family. We spent one entire holiday season at a hospital out of the area taking care of my sick father. I was reminded of that just this past week when we found presents we had bought for him before that time packed away in an ornament box. We were never able to have a good Christmas for him before he passed away a couple of months later.

These years of Christmas' with less joy than usual has brought me to understand the feelings of others who don't care for Christmas. I now understand their feelings much better than I did when I just thought anyone who disliked Christmas was just a scrooge.

Religious folks will tell you that if you look at the true meaning of Christmas, it will always bring joy to your heart. And even if you aren't religious, their words about what the season means and how we should perceive it, regardless of our circumstances, can bring comfort to us.

And the next time you run into someone who says they don't like Christmas, don't just dismiss their feelings as a fluke or an aberration, but try to understand that events of the past can make or break the holiday season for someone.




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