Sarah Hey, with her unique wry sense of humor, has offered some advice for those for whom Christmas is a difficult, even depressing time of year. I particularly approve of the following:
Try to build a new season other than “Christmas” into your life, called “Advent”—a time of preparation by various acts, thoughts, words, and invitations for Jesus to take fuller Lordship and Friendship of your heart and mind and the entire self. This season of Advent allows you to build new traditions other than the ones you see on television or amongst friends—traditions like quiet days of reflection, time set aside for you to talk and be and listen to Jesus, worship, and so on and so forth.
I remember my dear Grandma used to get all into Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving was over. I suspect she overdid it. For each St. Stephens Day – if not Christmas afternoon – she would have an angry post-Christmas letdown, a fit really, which included throwing out the Christmas tree. You could almost set a watch by it.
Many get completely burnt out on Christmas just as the real Christmas season begins. I think skipping Advent contributes to that.
And if doing Advent and Christmas at a pace you can handle well means you give out gifts late, just let people know you are a twelve days of Christmas person.
Much of the tenor of Hey’s advice is that it is okay, perhaps necessary for some, not to do Christmas non-stop. It’s okay to turn down parties, avoid the malls, etc.
I cannot recall ever having issues with Christmas although I certainly have had reason to due to difficult past family events. Heck, I get insufferably Christmasy by St. Nicholas Day, if not before. But I did for some years in my twenties and thirties have issues with Mother’s Day. When I went to church, it was Mother’s Day this and Mother’s Day that (Slightly idolatrous in hindsight.). And I could hardly escape Mother’s Day after church as finding a table for my customary lunch was difficult at best. I recall even a place where I was a regular patron booting me from a small table!
Mother’s Day reminded me again and again how single I was and how much I was not experiencing family. It made me feel very much left out.
So I began avoiding it all by vacationing on Mother’s Day weekend (including no church). And I thoroughly enjoyed those vacations and was recharged instead of dragged down.
I’m fine with Mother’s Day now. But I still very much understand why withdrawing a bit from some holidays may be advisable for some. Although I am now quite attached to the church calendar, to paraphrase Jesus, it was made for man, and not man for it. And, besides, the very early church had just one big celebration each year, the Pascha.
So if you need to deemphasize Christmas this year, it’s okay. Do feel free to do so. Some may not understand, but rest assured that many do . . . and that God does.