This time of year often gets to me. It’s dark, cold and dreary. I can’t stay out longer than 5 pm. I have to drink extra coffee just to get through the day.
I don’t remember it being that way when I was a kid. I loved this time of year—mostly because of Christmas. You get to eat frosted gingerbread cookies, and do fun projects at school, and everyone seems a little more relaxed. Back then, the first couple weeks of December were like the prelude to Christmas vacation. These days December just feels like a darker, colder version of the same old routine.
In the classic Charlie Brown Christmas TV special, Charlie Brown finds himself with a case of the holiday blues. Slumped over a snow-covered brick wall with his good friend Linus, Charlie Brown says, “Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel what I’m supposed to feel. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents, and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.”
Linus looks exasperated. He says, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who could take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.”
I can see where Charlie Brown is coming from, though. Every year at this time, everyone and everything is supposed to be cheery. Santa Claus comes into town with his jubilant HO HO HO! Children happily munch on cookies and go ice skating in the park. The town glows with Christmas lights sprinkled like sugar in the trees. And adults seem to scamper through the shopping malls with a kind of determined glee.
And yet, I don’t feel happy and gay. Not yet, anyway. Is all this holiday cheer just supposed to sink into me by osmosis?
I know, that sounds glum. But people like me—and Charlie—have a deep connection to the holidays. We want so badly for everything to feel magical. Just like it did when we were kids.
I know that you and I have a lot to be grateful for. We are ridiculously fortunate to be here, in the 21st Century with our 21st century Christmastime. In days of olde, before forced-air heating systems and LED light bulbs and Amazon Prime, you would have been happy just to be alive by mid-winter. Who knows, maybe the whole reason we have holidays is that past generations of people wanted an excuse to be cheery in an otherwise cold and bleak time. (And a scary time if your children might not make it through winter).
Just about every Christmas story and movie attempts to teach us what Christmas is really about: family, giving to others, world peace, or gratitude. But perhaps it’s much simpler: perhaps Christmas is really about learning to stay bright when things get dark.
Sometimes I feel like I’m staring out at the world through a curved glass. Like I’m stuck inside a snow globe. I know that a touch of cheer and merriment could shake up my little world. And that I don’t have to be another Charlie Brown at Christmas. If I squint just enough, or clean the glass, I can see that today is alright.
This morning, I was at a coffee shop buying a small americano and some chilaquiles for breakfast. The barista was cute and chatty and hard-working. She asked me how my day was going.
“It’s okay,” I said plainly. “How’s yours?”
She gave a hopeful smile. “So far, so good.”