I’m not talking about the average westerner who thinks that the lights in the neighbourhood are pretty or that the family get togethers decorating the tree are fun; I’m talking about people who actually and passionately declare that they “love Christmas” (and I’ve only heard this from two or three people) and justify the existence of year 'round dedicated Christmas-only/specific stores.
My wife has a friend who is one of these - several trees in her house (one tree per room in her house), several weeks of preparation and assembly of everything, literally (the correct definition) of almost every surface decorated, and probably several thousand dollars worth of stuff, for example.
Personally, I cherish the time off but I despise almost all Xmas music. The tree and lights are nice but I would be just fine without them as long as I get the time off.
I’m not asking for a defence of Xmas and I am not trying to challenge anyone; I’m just genuinely curious. So what drives this passionate love?
I only know one person like this and their drive is plainly obvious: escapism. Like visiting Disneyland, they get to exist in a total (and expensive) fantasy world. When February rolls around and they take most of their decorations down (some stay up year-round), there is a noticeable change in their mood and they become more depressed, almost despondent.
Is it that different than people who are passionate about baseball memorabilia, old cars, or model trains? Since it’s only for a few months out of the year I would consider it a passion, as opposed to an obsession, since they get a lot of enjoyment from it. It’s better than collecting cats I suppose.
I’m the opposite. I enjoy Christmas a lot, but I also look forward to the first weekend in January when I take down and put away all the decorations and do a heavy rotation of dusting and vacuuming. To me, it’s a fresh start on the New Year with a clean/uncluttered house.
I knew a woman at work who loved Christmas and always had a spectacular Christmas party. She had an awesome old house in the Glendale (CA) foothills, and it was decorated everywhere. But she also had a kind of porte cochere over her driveway, and that space was essentially a big attic. It was easily accessible from her bedroom and stored all her decorations. It was a fun party, and her house was like a wonderland.
No way I’d be doing all that, but it was fun to be a visitor to that world.
I used to be very passionate about Christmas but it’s waned over the past decade or so. I think a big part of it has to do with childhood – initially, memories of one’s own childhood Christmases, then later, reliving it through one’s own children. But when those children grow into adulthood, Christmas starts to lose its magic, and becomes at best an occasion for family get-togethers.
And you get back the space where the Christmas tree stood and where the presents piled up. In our case, the room feels so much bigger and cleaner.
The same is true on the outside. I only put up a single strand of lights on the gutters, but when they come down the lines of the house look so “normal”. I wonder how it feels to those who decorate with thousands of lights and disengage of yard decorations. Are they relieved or depressed?
I don’t bother with outside lights or decorations any more. Some of my neighbours go nuts with lights, so I sort of feel guilty, but not for very long! I must admit, though, that it all looks very cheery, especially if there’s snow on the ground. There’s a cheerful beauty about Christmas lights reflecting off a fresh layer of white snow, and it’s kind of sad when it all comes down. Right now is especially bleak, because not only are most of the lights down, but there’s no snow at all.
My sister goes into Christmas hard with the multiple trees, giant spread of Dept 56 Christmas Village buildings, etc. I think it’s a combination of her being a bit of a Martha Stewart acolyte and us growing up in a divorced home. We always had Christmas and gifts and stuff but I think she’s trying to just make drive a sense of stability and family even if it’s with a bit of a sledgehammer. There’s worse ways for your childhood traumas to manifest than seasonal garland, I suppose.
Though my wife’s friend didn’t grow up in a divorced home, apparently it might as well have been. Evidently they hated each other, and every Christmas buggered off to Florida or something of that ilk, without the kids (farmed off to Aunt Beatrice or whatever), even though they hated each other. By all accounts it was extremely dysfunctional. So in this instance I suspect that your sister felt the same sorts of experiences as my wife’s friend.
The folks I work for do a “heavy” xmas every year. Big old house, 2 large ATTICS packed with stuff. From expensive handmade Radko ornaments to homemade family stuff, lots of “layarounds” santas, nutcrackers etc… A few weeks with 3-4 people (on and off) putting stuff up, same time approx to take it down. Two 13ft trees, and 5 or 6 others, depending. Doing lights outside is abit of a relief, but they dont go crazy there. Inside? Different story.
Escapism, memory lane, shopping addiction? A bit of all 3 I think. The Mrs half of the couple does most of the ornament hanging, and placement items, she has mad decorating skills, my workers and I do the wiring, setup, etc etc. The Mr half helps unwrap and grumps about the whole thing, altho its really for him.
When done its a bit of a psychedelic experience tho. I get pretty cranky about the whole thing tho, gives one a bit of a headache with the lights on. I like to joke (silently) that its a chinese christmas because thats now where most of the stuff comes from. No live trees.
My wife’s friend almost sounds like a single version of these folks. Nutcrackers you say? Apparently she has a few 6 ft tall ones.
Note, I’ve never seen the place but my wife is agog/entertained everytime she visits and talks about it.
My wife likes Christmas a fair bit and there is some emotional importance resulting from her childhood (and my indifference probably results from whatever from my childhood). so it’s taken us a while to strike a balance.
I grew up and spent my early adult year in places with no real winter. I never had the post-Christmas let-down. I lived in a place with real winters for ages ~35-55. Major post-Christmas let-down then. I moved to another area with no winter. No post-Christmas let-down.
I think the reality is simply that winter, real winter, sucks donkey-parts.
The gaiety, lighting, parties, etc., associated with Christmas disguises the horror settling in during December. When that decorative band-aid is ripped off in early Jan, the giant festering sore of cold dark enduring misery is exposed in plain sight. The next two months are the depressive disaster you’d expect from having to exist in such conditions with no respite.
YMMV. But that’s how it affects me and a bunch of people I know.
Interesting point. I lived in Halifax for five years in the late '80s, before climate change started really manifesting itself and it had god-awful winters - dumps of snow followed by a couple of days of horizontal monsoon-like rain followed by days of everything freezing up. There was rarely a “winter wonderland” prettiness to it, but my god was there ever a lively pub culture! I’m convinced that the two were related.
I am one of those oddballs who enjoys the deep, dark cold of January and February. I don’t like the major snow and ice storms but I do enjoy the cold and dark.
I don’t celebrate Christmas any longer. No decorations, no special food, no church services. Just a few scattered visits to exchange a few gifts with cousins.
So I don’t really have anything to put away except wrapping paper.