II really don’t like Christmas. I hate to say it, but through the years I have gotten grumpy once Thanksgiving ends.
This spirit of “nonjoy” is unpopular with my family. My wife and daughters think Christmas is the best time of the year, and they take great joy in letting me know how much of a Grinch and Scrooge I am. But before you cast me away as a holiday hater, let me explain a few things.
As a child I loved Christmas. What wasn’t to like? Time off school; and where I lived, it always meant snow to go play in—often a lot of it. Christmas also meant large family gatherings. I would get to see aunts, uncles, and cousins I never saw outside of the holiday season. Sometimes we even got to travel to my grandparents’ house in Illinois. My mom’s family had a special tradition of reading “The Other Wise Man” by Henry van Dyke on Christmas Eve. When I was ten years old, they let me participate and read some of the passages. Christmas was really a memorable experience. But it didn’t remain that way.
When I was 13 years old, my parents started to have problems, and their marriage became strained. To escape the conflict at home, I went to boarding school, which was a welcome relief. I could focus on school and not the troubles at home. But that all changed in 1984. I came home for the holiday break and found my parents had split and my dad had moved out.
From that point on, every Christmas was ruined for me. Each year, when everyone else was celebrating, I was mourning. As the years passed, my sorrow grew. The pain became apparent to me when my wife and I “celebrated” our first Christmas. That’s when I really understood how much Christmas bothered me. I would end up in a depressed state once the calendar hit December 1 and continue into each new year.
My pain culminated in 2016 when my father suddenly passed away ten days before Christmas. Even though I was in my late 40s by then, the pain of the crushed Christmas in 1984 hit me hard. His death took several years for me to overcome. And each Christmas afterward my wife became apprehensive, knowing how much I suffered from this annual reminder of a painful period in my life. We ended up having good conversations about my dislike of Christmas, and she understood where I was coming from. Then the change happened.
Last Christmas I decided I needed to change my attitude. It wasn’t healthy for me or my family, and I couldn’t continue. I reflected on my life and all the blessings God has given me and my family. I realized I was focusing on the negative and not the positive things in my life. Christmas is a celebration of family, and I had been focusing on what I didn’t have instead of what I had been blessed with.
Through much prayer, I decided to try not to hate Christmas and to celebrate with my family and enjoy the season as I had when I was a boy. God has blessed our lives in many ways; to spend time not focusing on those wonderful things is a detriment to my relationship with him.
Even though we know that Jesus wasn’t born at Christmastime, it is still a celebration of his birth and the wonderful gift God gave us. Christmas is now a time for me to make new, positive memories that can replace the painful ones that are slipping away.
This article was originally published on the North American Division’s news site