This year I slid further into Christmas mania than ever before. I have always been a person who breaks his gifts in October and spends the whole Christmas day with reindeer ears, but 2019 was much more intense: in early November I started to look at decorations, I organized a four-course bunch dinner with friends right after early December and spent hours comparing basically the same fir trees online.
I did all this because I love Christmas, really, but also because I knew I had to get it back. On Boxing Day last year, my father died after being underestimated to call a long disease – a brain tumor of impressive complexity that has evolved over 20 years. Death can knock you off your feet at any time of the year, but it was especially unreal when I took my brother out of the room where our father had just died and turned on the TV to interrupt the silence and noise to find the Macaulay Culkin trap setting in Alone Home.
The rest of the “holiday season” was blurred, except that it was just a holiday season. When looking for funerals, I focused on chocolate-orange segments. All these festive responses were answered by the message “I apologize for your loss” before I said funny prices to put some sandwiches on the table (unfortunately). We couldn’t have had a funeral until the new year, because everything was closed during Christmas and the crematorium places went faster than the tickets to Glastonbury.
When I play a tree and play Mariah, I feel a huge sense of loss and appreciation of Christmas rituals.
As the seasons came and went, premature sadness became real sadness, which then turned into confusion and other emotions, new and known for its soreness. I would sometimes think about how Christmas was indelibly soiled, and then I would feel guilty for doing it myself, remembering the unforgettable moment of Keeping Up with Kardashians when Kim lost the expensive earring and her Sister Kourtney growls, “Kim, there are people who are dying!”
But my feelings slowly began to change. It helped that one of my close friends lost a parent at the same time and knew how disorienting it was; Christmas lights were still up in the street when we had the first death after death. At the end of the summer, I began to think of it as almost a miracle that my father – modest, brave, demanding – died in almost one time when we could all be in the same place at the same time. It was also at the same time that friends and family were most available, and when we had a mountain chocolate orange, it was a great escort for the deepest existential crisis. I began to feel grateful for a peaceful Christmas holiday and for being supported by hope, even for agnostics. I was appalled by the thought and lost in this unbounded sea of joy that would not apply to us, but I was also grateful.
And now. With my tree up, burning candles with the scent of firewood and playing Mariah, I feel a huge sense of loss and great appreciation for rituals, cold and familiar comfort. It will be difficult – it would be weird if it were not. But perhaps it is a distribution gift in many ways.