Christmas. To many it is a time of bright lights and colorful presents and joyful noise unto the world. To others it can be a difficult, and even blue time of the year. One is bombarded with jolly messages and flocks of red and green, but these things can be reminders of things lost or broken. Often, the heart can’t take all this forced Christmas cheer.
What is to blame for this “holiday syndrome”? Was it created by psychiatrists and psychologists in order to increase their patient loads? Is it because so many are overwhelmed with all of the family obligations, school concerts, office parties, and the overabundance of food and liquor at every gathering? Could it be the Hallmark and Lifetime movies that are shown around the clock that depict the “perfect” small town Christmas, complete with caroling townspeople and a magical Santa? Or is it perhaps the onslaught of heart-wrenching songs such as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or “Please Come Home for Christmas” that focus on missing loved ones who are far away during the holiday season? Or could it be the popularity of the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life that has contributed to the mythology that the suicide rates spike around Christmas?
Whatever the reason, this season does bring out the blues in many of us. Instead of cheerful, we feel melancholy. Our expectations are often way out of whack with reality. We are gloomy, even when surrounded by holiday festivities. There is so much going on this time of the year that we sometimes want to hide from it all. Crawling in a dark closet and staying there until February sounds surprisingly appealing.
How do we combat the holiday blues? There’s tons of advice out there. Exercise. Eat well. Drink more water than alcohol. Stay away from the news (especially good advice this year!). Simplify. Learn to say no. Have gratitude for what you have instead of focusing on what is missing.
Me? In our old house, I had a blue Christmas tree. We’d tramp out to the tree farm for a real one that went in the family room, and the artificial tree was set up in what was the living room and eventually became my writing office. This was the tree I decorated with all the blue and silver bulbs and ornaments I collected over the years. It sparkled and glittered and reminded me that even when I was glum during this crazy season, I had only to look at this shimmering tree to experience joy. This year in our new, smaller home I decided to put a few of the blue and silver ornaments on a tiny tree out by our front porch. It resembles Charlie Brown’s little tree, but it still reminds me to keep hope in my heart, even in the darkest of times.
I do find “comfort and joy” in this blue tree of mine, whether it is inside or out. It reminds me to breathe, to slow down, and to acknowledge the blues are part of the human condition.
“And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doin’ all right, with your Christmas of white
But I’ll have a blue, blue blue blue Christmas.”
–Blue Christmas Songwriters: Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson