Merry F***ing Christmas

When I started to dread Christmas, I thought something was wrong with me, like I was a bad person. I definitely felt like a grinch and honestly, ashamed about it. Now, I sense that’s kinda the norm for most people.

Growing up, Christmas was pretty awesome, some of my favourite memories are of Christmases spent with my cousins and grandparents in the prairie provinces of Canada. We skated on the frozen pond out back, tobogganed through the streets (read: prairies) and spent time being cozy inside, bonding. Plus, toys.

But something changed as I got older and I began to notice the stress on my parents faces, the sharp tone in my dad’s voice, the hours spent cooking in the kitchen only to have to call the plumber every single year because the garburator backed up. Seriously, every year for like 5.

And, most notably, the exhaustion and feeling of emptiness come December 26th.

When I turned 19, I started drinking at family functions and that helped ease my rising anxiety in the moment and allowed me to laugh at the tension. It softened the hard edges of my brother’s precarious mental state and behaviour. Turns out this was a coping mechanism I’d turn to for the next 18 years, you can read more about that here.

Here’s where I owe it to my family to say that they are wonderful and that I love them very much - this is true - it is also true that Christmas was often times very painful and unpleasant for me and I sense, this year more than ever, that I’m not alone. So I want to share part of our family story because I know how easy it is to scroll through holiday snapshots on social media and feel like everyone else knows how to do Christmas better somehow. So many GD fireplace and Christmas tree stories this year, we get it guys, you are COZY! 

My family is conventional and complicated (just like everyone else’s) and just like everyone else, Christmas brings out the best and the worst in us.

My brother died in February but for most of his life he was severely mentally ill and also physically and developmentally disabled. He was born with the disabilities but the mental illness came with time along with misdiagnoses and the mistreatment that came with them. He never lived with us as I grew up so I was raised as an only child, even though I was not. All this to say, the holidays were sometimes complicated in our house.

Our familial stories play a huge role in how we feel about the holidays. After the super fun Christmases of my childhood, the holidays became a time of year I dreaded as an adult. Recent holidays have often been filled with anxiety and worry and I've sometimes felt insecure and lonely when I see other people having the BEST time with their families but the truth is, every family has their own issues and challenges at the holidays. (And always).

Not to forget the consumerism of it all. And the waste, so much waste. Oh, and living in Vancouver, you step outside of the mall on a freezing cold rainy day, presents filling your hands as you scramble for your car keys and all the while there are homeless people who are literally living in a different world than us, barely surviving. Guys, it’s dark, I told you.

So when I rolled up to Erica’s studio for a Reiki treatment last week I was stunned and furious to see her house adorned with Christmas lights and decorations. I felt truly betrayed. How could my peaceful, feminist Reiki healer do this to me?

Turns out, has nothing to do with me and as always, Erica soothed my nervous system with Reiki and told me the story of the Pagan holiday Saturnalia.

Christmas is based on a Pagan holiday everyone, just so you know.

Saturnalia was a celebration of the God Saturn, the God of light, and was celebrated around the Winter Solstice to honour and celebrate the return of the light - longer days and this is why we hang lights at Christmas, to remind us to cherish the light, that Spring is truly just around the corner, the Earth is making its gentle journey towards Spring.

Now, when I see festive decorations lighting up the spaces I visit I look at the lights, the garland, the tinsel and smile to myself knowing that these are all tributes to the longer days that are just about here. Even if it’s 5 minutes a day, we are guaranteed a little less darkness after December 21st. That’s a celebration I can get behind.

Don't believe everything you see on social media and if you're having a tough time dealing with your family at Christmas it's ok, literally everyone else is too, we just don't like to talk about it, that is NOT the holiday spirit.

Megan Soutar