Well, the lights are out and everyone's gone to bed. I'm sitting here wondering how to wile away the final hours of the Christmas season before sleep overtakes me. I guess I've decided.
Let it be said (and I have before) that I am neither a Scrooge nor a Grinch, and I'm not one to scoff at Yuletide traditions. Granted, the sight of tinsel on November 1st (or, God forbid, October 1) tends to give me seizures, and a single bar from Paul McCartney's "Simply Having. . ." is enough to make me want to rupture my eardrums with chop-sticks. But I don't mind the rest of it. I like sleigh bells, and nativity scenes, egg nog, Bing Crosby and Burl Ives. I have no problem at all with the endless reruns of Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street, or all the moralizing that comes with it. None. Fine by me.
Having said as much, there is a period of the day, every single year it seems, when I begin to feel a little grouchy. Usually starts in the late afternoon, before the dinner, and dissipates much later in the evening, long after the food is eaten and the cheer is drunk. I sink into a cloud of melancholia and need to withdraw from the general company. Every year, never fails. WTF?
Part of it must inevitably be the disappointment of impossible expectations. Our entire culture, nay, our civilization, hypes Christmas to such a ridiculous extent, nothing that actually happens within that twenty four hour period can live up to it; nothing can produce the kind of earth-shattering euphoria pushed by television specials, movies, songs and marketers. And don't go trying to dig it up either because that will completely backfire - few things are more completely counter-productive than contrived joy.
Part of it must be the pull of nostalgia: what in mundane adulthood can possibly compare with the stuffed stockings of childhood? (Assuming you had a happy childhood of course). Perhaps you've got children of your own and can re-live it vicariously. I do not, so I can't.
And a big part of it is, I just don't do well in situations where I can't fully be me. Really don't do well. One must never be one's true self at a family gathering. It just wouldn't do. And there's only so much I can take of that. Veiled formality and contrived sentimentality don't help. It shouldn't detract from my genuine gratitude at being surrounded by so many good people, that I occasionally find these prolonged periods of government-mandated merriment exhausting. And I'm hard pressed to believe I'm the only one who finds it so.
Having gotten that off my chest, I've consulted with the Metal God, Sir Rob Halford, to Get Back Into the Spirit . Who needs three ghosts?