Christmas Anonymous

Editor’s Note: This was originally written in 2011. I just reread it and I’m not sure I disagree with any of my conclusions. This year (2020) was my first Christmas at home in twelve years, with COVID-19 adding stress to everything else that is stressful about the holidays. If you read this and agree with any of it, you’re not alone. If you think I’m insane, you’re not alone. Peace. Happy New Year.

If you really know me, you will understand where this is coming from, you’ll feel my pain, and you’ll know I’ll be in a much better mood in January. If you think you know me, and this seems unbelievable harsh in places, you don’t really know me. Be forewarned.

Also, this post makes no sense unless you’ve read Christmas Anonymous. This is what my first meeting would be.

Scene: A small meeting room, somewhere in a strip mall, Suburbia. 

Uh, this is my first time here, so I’m a bit nervous. I hope you’ll bear with me. Oh, sorry. Hi! I’m Kevin, and I hate Christmas.

Hi, Kevin!

I’m glad to know I’m not alone in my issues with Christmas. I hope you can help me. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s always on the verge of crying and I’m really not sure why. There’s a lot of reasons I’m sure, but hopefully, someone in here will share a similar set of reasons. 2020: Being out of work and living in a COVID world did not help at all.

First, I’m not really sure why I hate Christmas. I don’t hate Christ by any means, so I really shouldn’t hate people celebrating His birthday, even if there was no physical way He was born on December 25th.

2020: I’m not sure “hate” is the proper term any longer. The holidays just depress me. My ex-wife told my wife I hated Christmas, so I just owned it, but hatred is too strong a term.

I do still believe in God, even if many of His Churches are all seemingly filled with hypocrites. If Holden Caufield wanted to find phonies, he just needed to look to the Cafeteria Christians.

Maybe it’s the soul-crushing realization that people really aren’t celebrating Christ’s birthday. Of course, Christmas was actually created by co-opting a pagan holiday, so I’m not sure anyone ever actually celebrated Christmas. Nobody seems to care about Christmas anymore, it’s not politically correct to use the term. It’s best to say  “the holidays”, so you don’t offend the Jews or the people of Islam or anyone who celebrates Kwanzaa.

2020: Political correctness has gotten progressively worse in the time since I wrote this, but Christmas still lives on, mostly.

Maybe it’s the simple fact that if you grow up in Dallas, you will never see the Christmas of TV and movies. I think we’ve had one actual White Christmas during my lifetime, and I was out of town that year. A White Christmas in Dallas means power outages and multi-car accidents, rather than carriage rides, anyway.

Maybe it’s the inevitable unspoken competition on gifts – you will never get what you want, since what you want is often driven by commercials, and you may not watch the same commercials as your friends, relatives and parents. Different generations will rarely know what others actually want. Some will try, with varying levels of success.

The inability to know (or care) what will make someone happy  is probably what invented the gift card industry, which I never liked, since you’re basically telling someone “I think you’re worth $50, but only at Target.” It also says you aren’t really willing to put any thought into a gift at all. 2020: Except that some of my relatives love gift cards, so if you know that, then a gift card is the right present. It still lets them know exactly how much you think they’re worth.

I’m actually still very bitter that my younger brother got a dog when I was about eight. It’s worse now that I’m in animal rescue, and I realize that my parents probably bought a dog from a backyard breeder after doing zero research into a proper breed and I really don’t want to know where his dog went after six months, but back then, all I knew was that he got a dog, I got some plastic models and when the dog went away, he got replacement presents and I got squat.

At this point, I should say that my late mother-in-law got me great gifts. She somehow knew something that I actually wanted, and as a bonus, she would generally make my wife get it for me, and my wife would think it was a stupid gift. Her gifts were always small, but they were from the heart and they were something that I wanted, even if I didn’t know it beforehand. Thanks, Rose. I miss you.

Maybe it’s the invention of the Christmas newsletter. I actually started writing this as a byproduct of trying to write a family newsletter, and I realized that I hadn’t successfully done one in three years. [Editor’s note: the dogs eventually took over the Christmas newsletter, and have received rave reviews.] A lot has happened in three years – we lost my mother-in-law, we gained a daughter-in-law and a grandson, but as I was writing the short paragraphs to try to keep it to a reasonable length, it hit me – if you’re close enough to me to get a summary of my life, wouldn’t you already know this stuff?

2020: The newsletter does cover some of the more random events of the year, and lately, it has been announcing things not everyone would know. So, I’m less negative about it than I was. Plus, the dogs write it now.

Maybe it’s working in a sales organization, where bless their hearts, most salespeople are just incapable of closing any deals any time except the last two weeks of the quarter. This means Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, since it’s quarter-end and year-end. It’s make quotas or update resumes time. If your job requires supporting salespeople, it’s about to be your fault that they spent the time from Halloween to Thanksgiving gazing in the mirror and jerking off, so they managed to miss quota.

2020: I do not miss working in a sales organization. I do miss working.

I don’t know what my expectations are from the holidays. I just know that there is a tremendous amount of pressure to be nice to people you would much rather ignore. There is pressure to work extra hours in a time when your personal life is calling you. There is pressure to spend money on people you wouldn’t even talk to during the rest of the year.

2020: Ignoring people has been much easier in quarantine, but after enough time stuck in the house, you begin to miss people, even the annoying ones. Working extra hours wasn’t an issue, since I was out of work, but there was extreme pressure to find a job, mostly to finance Christmas.

So it goes.

Maybe that’s why I hate Christmas.

2020: I’m still not sure.

Can someone tell me the twelve steps of Christmas?

Christmas Anonymous

I really don’t like the holidays. Actually, I dread the holidays. I spend the time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s in a deep depression. I’m constantly on the edge of tears. I don’t know why. (I have my suspicions, but publishing them would probably offend a lot of people.) So, I thought what is really needed is an organization to help those of us who dread the holidays. We need Christmas Anonymous.

Now, Christmas Anonymous would be built on the basic principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is the foundation for many successful recovery programs. Even people who have never had a drink have probably heard of the Twelve Steps. (In fact, somebody may have already done this work, in which case, I apologize. Doing it has been rather cathartic for me.)

I’ve only been to one AA meeting in my life (on a date – which can tell you how well the relationship worked), and it was an amazing experience. It was a religious experience, as well – only people who share the same dark secret can relate to your true issues and from that relation can come salvation.

So, I’ve taken the original Twelve-Step program (quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous – thank you, Bill W.), and translated it for those of us who can’t seem to cope with the holidays. You’re out there. You’re hurting. You’re not alone.

I read the Twelve Steps just before I went to the AA meeting. Until then, I had no idea what the steps were (although since then I’ve received apologies from alcoholic friends over the years, so I recognized that was one of them.) Some people think AA’s Twelve Steps are very close to a religion – God is mentioned everywhere throughout them. While this may offend some non-alcoholics who think “it’s only a drinking problem”, in the case of Christmas Anonymous, I believe it is absolutely a core part of the solution. (As the sarcastic would say: What? God in Christmas? Surely not.)

Here are the Twelve Steps, for members of Christmas Anonymous.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Christmas. No matter how hard we wished or bitched, it would still arrive every year on December 25th. Ads begin just after the Fourth of July.
  2. We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. In this case, perhaps trying to restore the true meaning of Christmas as a religious holiday rather than a reason to spend ourselves into debt will help us through the season.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Wouldn’t Christmas be an excellent time to rededicate yourself to your beliefs? You don’t have to be Christian, but if you’re pummeled by Christmas music and commercials anyway, take a moment to connect with your God. 
  4. We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Why do we hate Christmas? Is it religious? Financial? Fear? Relationships?
  5. We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our hatred of Christmas. Tell your significant other, friend or family member why you’re so cranky during the holidays. Find someone who will actually listen. If nothing else, blog about it. 
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. This should always be true whether you hate Christmas or love drugs.  
  7. We humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings. Perhaps this would be a good private prayer during Christmas services. If you avoid services, take a moment on Christmas to ask your God for this. 
  8. We made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all. Who avoids you during the holidays? They’re on this list.
  9. We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. In most cases, this is probably a sincere apology to friends and family for being such an asshole during the holidays.
  10. We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it. You’re not going to get through every Christmas unscathed. Remember this. Keep trying.
  11. We sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out. If you can find God, you can celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. It was one at one time. 
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to others in pain during the holidays, and to practice these principles in all our affairs. Find others who hate Christmas, and give them this message. Think what else you hate as much as the holidays, and apply the steps. 

Merry Christmas!