Lay off my blue Christmas

Photo by Annie Spratt

I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for the epic commercial American Christmas. Red, green, tinsel, silver bells and — you guessed it — candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup (Elf fans, anyone?).

I start playing Christmas songs as soon as my wife lets me (she’s very strict) — usually right after Thanksgiving (though I always test my luck by trying to sneak them in after Halloween — it never works).

This year, however, I had a couple strong Charlie Brown moments.

I just don’t understand Christmas. I might be getting presents, sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.

— Charlie Brown

Once, when I went to a Christmas concert downtown. And again when I went to a Christmas light show at the Chicago Zoo. Just a year or three ago, I would have loved it. But this year, it was too much sparkle. Too many people. Too commercial. Too much forced joy.

For the few years prior to this one, we’ve attended a certain branch of spiritual centers that have hosted big, epic Christmas celebrations with all the American Christmas trappings on stage (Mr. & Mrs. Claus, reindeer, big wrapped presents, elves, etc.). And they’ve been a lot of fun — really.

As some of you know, since my deconstruction of secular spirituality this year, we’ve found our spiritual home at a small Lutheran church near our apartment. And since advent started on the 2nd of December, I’ve not heard ONE mainstream American Christmas song. We even went to an Advent sing-along where I was expecting at least one or two familiar Christmas tunes, but nope… Not one mention of frosty, Rudolph, or old St. Nick.

It threw me off. But I gotta tell you, it’s been so refreshing.

Our sermons and hymns throughout this Advent season have addressed the ‘blueness’ of this time of year (literally, this branch of Lutheranism uses the color blue during Advent — the robes, altar cloth, etc. — unlike most churches who use purple, a much cheerier color). It’s a nod to the darkness, the somberness, and the place of hoping and waiting that many of us are in this time of year.

In short, it’s been real. 
And I love it.

It’s odd how soothing it feels to sit in a space where this sadness — this blueness — is honored without trying to whitewash it away with the jingle jangle of Christmas distractions.

I don’t care how great your life may look on the outside, I believe that emotions such as sadness, longing, loneliness, and angst (even — if we go further in this direction — emotions such as terror and grief) are a natural part of the human experience. Just a glance at the news, your neighbor, and your own inner movements are enough to bring us to this place (at least temporarily).

But in our modern American culture, we’ve deemed this kind of thing bad — clinical, even. It’s a PROBLEM and we must FIX it. We MUST be HAPPY ALL THE TIME!!! Here, buy this thing or distract yourself with the little red notifications that give you a temporary dopamine boost.

And so, for you, this Christmas — may you honor whatever sadness or somberness or loneliness or various other types of darkness that are hanging around your headspace or heartspace right now.

May you know that you’re not the only one feeling blue this time of year. It’s just that a lot of people are really good at faking that they’re not.

As well-meaning as these cheery people are, they can have the opposite effect on those of us who are blue. Instead of lifting us up to their level of cheer, all they do is provide a contrast that makes us feel worse.

And so, I say to them, lay off my blue Christmas. Your reds and greens and golds are making my blues bluer. Right now, I’m enfolded by blue. It feels good to feel.

I also know that the brightest light can only show up in the midst of the most intense darkness. No need to rush it. I just know it’s always there, ready to shine through.

May you feel okay in your blueness this blue, blue Christmas.

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