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It wasn’t until I met someone from a functional family that I realized crying on Christmas morning wasn’t normal. Apparently, for some red-blooded broods, the holiday is spent rounding yon virgins and actually enjoying each other’s company. In the Burns household, we get emotional to the Celine Dion Christmas album while passive-aggressively re-folding used wrapping paper.
Don’t get me wrong, the tears aren’t necessarily of the manic-depressive variety. We just have a lot of feelings that, like most good WASPs, only breach the surface at the most inopportune times: graduations, grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s, Tuesdays and—last and most certainly least—holidays. Add the sentimentality and wallet-draining qualities of Christmas into the equation and it’s no wonder we’ve all individually crafted a noose out of boughs of holly at one time or another.
Christmas wasn’t always such a sob-fest. Pre-Y2K home videos document all the usual Yuletide clichés. Hair was tousled, presents were opened, everyone was skinnier; it was the best of times. Flash forward a decade and everyone takes the time to make their beds before heading to the living room to feign an interest in their stocking stuffers (“An Arby’s gift card? Oh, mom, you shouldn’t have….”).
Unless you forget-repress-and-repeat your way through the final month of the year, the holiday blues are bound to effect you too. But before you claim defeat and crawl underneath the Christmas tree, remember that there are plenty of ways to turn that seasonal affective disorder-frown upside down. Especially if uppers are out of your budget.
For starters, don some gay apparel. It appears that Jesus’ birth rite was not to save humanity but to usher in the reign of the holiday sweater. Christmas is one of the few times of year where you can get away with wearing a bedazzled turtleneck without looking like a complete idiot or uncircumcised penis. Also, you’d be surprised how well some additional fabric and a sequined Santa can camouflage that holiday office party hickey. Take fullest advantage!
At some point, you will need to step foot in a mall. If you’re into S&M chat rooms and a good hemorrhoid, you might get some kind of sick enjoyment out of it. If you’re slightly less masochistic, you’ll be in need of an incentive. My reward system is a hot pretzel and a slap to your own ass for every present purchased. You’ll be able to cross every begrudged family member off your list while propelling yourself into an entirely new weight class. Also, the sodium content of the pretzels will leave you with a leg cramp intense enough to be medevac’d out of JCPenney.
December is where diets go to die. Embrace your ever-expanding midriff: eat those feelings before they eat you! Use the stress of the holiday as your excuse when people start asking you why the only things you’ve consumed all month are raw cookie dough and Chardonnay. So long as salmonella doesn’t enslave you to the nearest toilet, you’re just being festive.
Inevitably, you will have to prepare yourself for an afternoon spent with both immediate and extended family members. The same aunt hosts Christmas dinner every year in my family and, by the grace of God, she has a pet parrot. As soon as I can feel the tides of conversation surging in my direction (“so, are you seeing anyone special…?), I take the nearest wheel of brie into the back bedroom and wait for the parrot to wolf-whistle at me and demand a kiss. If you’re not lucky enough to have a talking pet at your disposal, hiding in the bathroom is a great last resort.
Sadly, you can distract yourself all you want but there’s still something about the nostalgia of Christmas that can get you down. The magic of the season dies at a young age and what often remains is a longing for what was. Presents and company and calories temporarily fill that void but something still feels lost. Before I try and find it, I’ll be listening to Celine Dion and having a good cry.
Brian Burns is a Staff Columnist for The Hub. Follow him @brianTburns_.