Exit 34. I have mixed feelings about Christmas.

I have mixed feelings about Christmas.  I tell people it is both my favorite holiday and my least favorite holiday.

I love Christmas because of the reminders of, and opportunities to reflect on, how the Word of God became flesh and lived among us to show us the way to eternal life.  I hate Christmas because of the hectic rush to buy gifts and all the extra responsibilities that come up this time of year that keep me away from buying gifts.  I love the idea of giving.  I hate the way parents try to buy their children’s love through gifts.  I love the inviting celebration of O Come All Ye Faithful, I love the solemn reflection of Silent Night, I love the lighthearted fun and childhood memories of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, and I love the second verse of What Child Is This because you get to say “ass” in church.  I hate the sultry creepiness of Santa Baby, the repetitive irritation of Last Christmas, and the date rape of Baby It’s Cold Outside.

It seems that as the years have gone on, I have found myself more and more in a rush to do things at the last minute.  The last time I wrote Christmas cards was 2008.  In 2009, the school where I worked at the time moved their schedule three weeks back, starting earlier and ending earlier, so that first semester finals would happen just before winter break instead of mid-January.  While this makes sense from the perspective of having a break between the semesters rather than having a break just before the end of the semester, it meant that I had to prepare and grade finals at the same time that I would be making all my holiday plans, and the annual routine of writing Christmas cards fell by the wayside at that point.  I have not written Christmas cards since.  It was around that same time that I started having more of a social life, and getting invited to more holiday-related social events, which took up many weekends and some weeknights during December, leaving me with no time to shop until around December 23, when I’d finally be off work.  And as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, there is an annual conference for math teachers that I often attend the weekend after Thanksgiving, which cuts even more into what little time I have for holiday shopping and card writing.

The result this year was a perfect storm of circumstances that made me more out of touch with the holidays than ever.  I didn’t have finals to prepare, since I’m now teaching younger students and we don’t have finals per se, but I’m learning a new curriculum this year, and that always makes things more time consuming.  I had some home maintenance issues to deal with that took up several hours, and I haven’t dealt with all of them yet.  Not only was I spending every spare moment working, but when I did have a couple hours to unwind, I was so tired that I didn’t feel like doing anything.

To make things worse, I’m horrible at giving gifts.  I’m just not good at picking out things that people would like.  Gift giving in my family was always like grocery shopping.  You make a list, and people buy stuff off the list.  In the past, when I’ve tried getting something for someone that they didn’t ask for, it ends up unused collecting dust on a shelf.  This has happened multiple times with my family and gifts I’ve given.

I don’t like feeling this way.  Christmas should be a time of joy and celebration, not a time of stress and exasperation.  And I’m not sure what I can do about it.  I can’t change the fact that December is a very busy time for me.  I suppose in the future, I can make a conscious effort to be more organized and get shopping done before Thanksgiving.  And I’m thinking of changing my Christmas card list to, say, a Flag Day card list, just because in June I actually have time to write people about what I’ve been doing for the last year.

For this year, though, I’m going to do the best I can.  I’m still going to Christmas parties.  I’m going to do the best I can with buying gifts for my family, even though they might end up being gift cards and IOUs.  And I’m going to try not to be stressed.

Merry Christmas, friends.