THAT “NOT SO MAGICAL TIME OF YEAR”

The Halloween costumes have been put away and the painted pumpkins have started to decay and you know what that means! No, not Thanksgiving anymore. Now we go straight to Christmas. When I was growing up, it was a standard rule. The Christmas decorations did not come out of the closet until the day after Thanksgiving. After all that was the day that Santa Claus sent all of his “other fake Santa helpers” to arrive at malls all over the world to get the lists straight and separate the naughty from the nice.

To many, the “holiday season” is the start of a blessed and joyous time of year. The time when all members of our loving families unite, drink eggnog and sing Christmas carols. The children anxiously await the arrival of Santa on Christmas eve, the fresh snow glistens on the lawn as the cookies and milk are left for the “fat man” All seems right in the world. Echoes of peace and joy and love surround us, but for many this can be quite the contrary.

I too, was “one of those”. I grew up in a Catholic family who went to Midnight Mass, woke up to dozens of presents, enjoyed the Christmas cookies and sang along to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Now I feel more like Ebineezer Scrooge or The Grinch himself. I don’t know if its because we grow older, wiser or simply just a little more aware of things around us.

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So many people feel pressured at this time of year. Whether pressured for money, time or personal issues it seems the stress factor is through the roof. Its not always sunshine and candy canes. I personally know too many people who are struggling and can only imagine how many more there really are out there. How many parents simply can’t afford gifts for their children because they are too busy just trying to put food on the table? How many people are left with only memories of Christmas past when there loved ones were gathered with them on this sacred holiday? Now there are only photos and memories. How many people are sick and confined to hospitals and nursing homes, many watching the hours pass knowing there will be no visitors, no gifts to open, no fruitcakes, no Christmas Carols? How many elderly people sit at home and cry remembering the life “they used to have”, their lost traditions and family members?

I used to look forward to the holidays with anticipation and now I look at the calendar in November with dread. I miss my mom and dad who have passed, I miss their traditions, the house full of family and friends gathered together laughing. I miss my brother who is now residing in Florida when I am here in New York City. I miss the golden moments when my now 24 year old daughter used to anxiously hurry to bed early Christmas Eve with anticipation of Santa’s arrival and I miss the excitement on her face on Christmas morning when she ran to look under the tree jumping up and down with excitement! The traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls baking in the oven.

I do try to get into “the holiday spirit”. I decorate “a little bit”, I shop, buy and wrap gifts. I even bake the cookies, however it’s not the same. Working full time, all of these things are more of a chore than I care to admit. Struggling to pay bills and “shop” for Christmas gifts is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat each year and I hate to admit it but standing on the long lines and being elbow to elbow with hundreds of people makes me quite the grumpasaurus.

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The last thing I want to do after work at night is wade through a crowd of “not so nice” people and use my brain to search out “just the right gift” for everyone. My patience is shot and usually I’m on my last nerve. Of course I can online shop assuming that I have a bucket full of money ahead of time instead of living paycheck to paycheck like I do. Also remember while I am doing this, shopping, cooking, wrapping, etc my laundry is still waiting, my house still in need of cleaning and hell, we still need to eat dinner every night.

Do I like the holidays? The answer is yes IF I had the luxury of shopping at my leisure with no time restrictions, a maid to clean my house, cook my meals and do my laundry and an endless supply of cash. I would be singing JOY TO THE WORLD and sipping hot cocoa in front of a fake fireplace in a heartbeat!

The ONLY thing that makes me feel that holiday feeling is sitting in church at Midnight Mass and remembering what all of this hoo ha is really about. Sometimes I think too much. I think about all of those people. The lonely, the sick, the elderly, the children that will wake up to nothing on Christmas morning. Why can’t we all just help each other? Buy that neighborhood child with the single parent a gift, visit that lonely senior in the nursing home.

This Christmas I really hope that somehow, some way I will feel that “Christmas spirit” again. I wish I could go to sleep on December 24th and wake up on December 26th.

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