Christmas- Wonderful and Depressing

There’s something so Swedish about Christmas. Being a third generation Swede on both sides, I heartily embrace, with giddy delight, a very pagan Christmas, with decorations, parties, singing, horribly caloric food, and, well, depression- the darkness of a day of no light, and the miserable morning after when eggnog and vodka (?) mix in your sleep-deprived stomach amidst the ear-splitting squeals of children and finally recognizing your credit card debt.

OK, let’s start again. I love Christmas. It wasn’t always so. I was single, and it rode on the heels of my birthday, reminding me that I was getting older, and had no family of my own. The loneliness of the holiday was mitigated by a large boisterous family that was a pleasure to hang out with, and we were replicating ourselves so I had many children to dote on and enjoy Christmas through their eyes. After 20 some odd years of managing Christmas as a childless single person (or, child-free), I made it my own. I setup traditions I enjoyed- a nice meal out for Christmas Eve with my parents, a fun party with friends on my birthday, etc. I knew how to handle it, and I had gotten to a peaceful place.

Last season, I was pregnant, and thrilled at the thought of all the lovely family traditions I could share with my child. It may have been the best season yet. I had money and time, emotions and hope, and I got the tree ready the day after Thanksgiving and basically nested on hyperdrive. My boyfriend just watched in amazement. I did a mix of single-person-fun things, and little family traditions. I thought that each season would be like this, that having my own family meant sunshine and rainbows and unicorns.

This year, I already know it’s going to be different. I have a child- beautiful and healthy boy- and while he will enjoy some traditions, it’s largely lost on a 6-month old. I don’t have time nor money, and emotions aren’t riding as high, amidst sleep deprivation and trying to cram in as many work hours as possible. Thing is, I have that thing I’ve longed for — a family. I wondered why then, did I feel that drop in mood after Thanksgiving? Yesterday, I bought some running shoes, and was thinking of this thing — that despite my best efforts, I could feel the haunting of depression in the wings. And with it, came the idea- that holidays might just be depressing. It might be something totally out of my control. It’s not about whether you have a family or not.

In talking to my sister about this, she agreed that something about the holidays is always depressing. It’s the day after. When sunlight shines on the gaudy decorations, etc. I mention running shoes because I was very consciously getting my exercise on, to counteract this mood. I ran a 5K on Thanksgiving but suffered a sports injury- strained Achilles- that meant being homebound while I iced for two days. Almost every thought racing in my brain, or entering it, was negative. I am not depressive, but being holed up in my apartment with a squally baby and no plan was getting on my nerves. I wanted to buy a tree, but needed to coordinate schedules with my boyfriend who wasn’t free this weekend. He could sense what was going on with me- and watched Boo while he encouraged, nay, dictated that I go to the gym. I ended up lifting weights, running a bit on the treadmill, and a sauna (oh, the Swede in me).

I still love Christmas, but it’s tinged now with a dose of reality. Being a parent has been a lesson in “doses of reality.” Holidays are wondrous and fun, but no future state- such as having a family- is going to make them any less potentially depressing on the day after. I think with keen emotion comes keen understanding. For example, when you love something so much, you also fear it leaving (or dying). Christmas is wonderful, and on its heels… tax season. Time to go for a run.

Pictured: unwrapped presents, the day after Christmas. St. Lucia buns, a lovely Saffron spiced yeast roll traditional in Sweden, a quarter collection book, a lovely history book and some real British tea.