I wasn’t sad taking down my Christmas decorations—this is why I am concerned about it.
Most people I know love the holidays. For some, the festive mood kicks off in October with the anticipation of dressing up in scary or funny costumes or sitting at home with freshly popped popcorn and a lineup of scary movies to keep them up late at night. For others, it starts with the only day of the year where it is 100% expected to wear stretchy pants to the dinner table—Thanksgiving. Whenever the holiday season begins for you, most people I know enjoy this time of year because of all of the festivities and all-around good times that people want to have. We are more willing to spend our free time with others and feel charitable to those who have been wanting all year. We want to be a better version of ourselves at this time of year.
When I was growing up and living with my parents, my mom always hit an eventual and depressive funk after Christmas. Taking down the decorations to be put back into their dark corners of the attic for the next 11 months brought a gloom over my mom for the next few weeks. The darkness that accompanies the rest of the year was an unwelcome familiarity for her.
When I got older and moved away, I began having these same melancholy feeling as I folded up the small set of string lights, I hung around my apartment window. They were not the extravagant show that I helped my brother string along our rooflines in our childhood, but they still had the same feelings of warmth, family, love, and hope that I experienced around the holidays. Granted, my family drives me crazy just as much as any other family, but I wouldn’t trade that feeling of getting a morning Christmas hug from my mother for anything else. The holidays are a time that no matter where we are in our lives, my siblings and I come together with our parents and enjoy merely being each other’s presence.
This year, I put away my first tree and stockings that I shared with my husband. Our first Christmas as a married couple went off with any significant hick-ups and left only warm feelings and full bellies. The difference I noticed this year was that I was not sad to see the red, white, and silver decorations of my tree being packed away for their 11-month hibernation. I didn’t feel that pressure of sadness in my chest that I usually get as I squeezed the seemingly impossibly shaped tree into its small box. I was numb to it all. I didn’t think much of this numbness until my best friend mentioned that she too was done seeing Christmas—she welcomed the end of the season. It made me think about why I no longer felt that pang of heartache anymore.
On my way to work, the first day back after a two-week holiday vacation, it came to me that I no longer have the optimism for the new year as I did in previous years. The glitter of Christmas lights was a signal that most people also have that feeling of camaraderie and betterment. Most everyone is in good moods because this time of year calls to be kind to one another and think of those that are less fortunate than themself. This idea carries us into the new year. Resolutions are an attempt to have that warm feeling of caring to be a launching pad for people to be more conscientious and improve ourselves. Now, I feel like the new year doesn’t have the same regenerative and “clean slate” feeling that it used to have. The phrase in the last few years, “New year, new you” has an empty meaning to it. Am I more cynical than my younger self? Perhaps. But I think it's because I now know as an adult that there are forces outside of myself that I'm concerned about, and I am no longer preoccupied with me as a singular person and more concerned with the outside world as a whole.
The 2019 holiday season was suffocated by the weight of misfortune and distrust in the world. The news cycle constantly reminded us that Australia was (and still is) burning and debates as to whether the president has once again ignored the democratic process to cover his own ass. These and other all-around bad news, needless to say, gave me little hope that the situation of our world is repairable. Even the glinting, colorful houses lining streets was not enough of a distraction from the heaviness of the outside world. Every day I see a new cause that needs my attention, and knowing that there is little that I can do to help or stop these injustices is one of the most infuriating and frustrating feelings I experience. I wasn’t sad to put away my Christmas tree because I no longer have much hope for fighting for what I believe is right. I feel beaten down, hopeless, and helpless.
The idea to be better and care for your fellow neighbor is no longer evident with how much division is in the world, and the holiday season was not enough to give me optimism and miss the higher point of the year. It felt like just any other part of another shitty year. I hate to feel like I have given up, but with the continual reminder that there is a good chance 45 could win another term and the democratic presidential candidates getting more vanilla and male by the day is disheartening.
I don’t want to say that I have entirely given up. I see this extra-terrible time as the shitshow before it gets better, but I can’t help but ask, when does the better times start?