In Defense of Ebenezer
“Ever since the Christmas of ‘53, I have felt that the yuletide is a special Hell for those families who have suffered any loss or who must admit to any imperfection; the so-called spirit of giving can be as greedy as Receiving – Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.” – John Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany
Everyone has heard the adage that suicides increase around the holidays. Like a lot of common knowledge, it happens to not be true.
But it nevertheless remains true that, for a lot of people, the Christmas season isn’t only, or even mainly, one of joy and good cheer. People forget that Scrooge had his reasons.
Everyone loses people, of course. But the knowledge that your loss is in no way special doesn’t lessen it. In a way maybe it makes it worse, this knowing that loss and sorrow are just part of the human experience, that it’s just par for the course. Over the years families expand and contract, expand and contract, inhaling new births and exhaling those who have departed, always changing. But all we know are those whose breath overlaps our own.
Humans love rituals, because rituals are comforting. Rituals help to beat back the loneliness. But holiday rituals, more so than others, are often tied up with memories of people and places we no longer have access to physically, even if they are only lost to us by the geography of life. So the rituals become both comforting and saddening. They become an anchor to both the joyous memories but also the memory of loss, and we doubly feel the absence.
Each person’s internal holiday stuff is their own, and none of this is in any way a call to be mindful of the Scrooge’s feelings. If anything, it’s the opposite. Those with the full allotment of Christmas cheer should hang another strand of lights, put that Santa hat on the dog even though he hates it, and sing that stupid novelty song a little louder. Scrooge just needs a minute, and maybe another eggnog, but he’ll be alright.
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Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.