Who should be on my list? Whom should I invite to my Christmas party? Which party should I blow off if I get invited to two separate parties in two different parts of town at once? How do you get out of an awkward conversation? What do you do with a gift you don’t like?
We’re well into the holidays, and given all the traffic and stress that come with the season, it probably doesn’t seem like a festive time at all. I haven’t surveyed any of my contacts or relatives, but I highly suspect that nowadays, a “Grinch” mindset is easier to get into than a “Who” mindset.
Who’s a Who?
I’ve never been a particularly “Who”-like person. Christmas decorations, candy canes, exchange gifts, cards, and parties were things that happened to other people, people who could muster up the energy and enthusiasm to deal with the preparation and investment involved in all that.
Don’t get me wrong; I like the idea of people expressing love and sharing good times together, and I like the idea of there being a season for that. It’s just that I’m not the kind of person for whom love comes naturally. I’m not really good at having fun, making connections, and being spontaneous. I look at people who are bubbly, sociable, vivacious, and just general “life of the party” types, those who can go to parties and maybe a couple of after-parties, depending on how the night goes, and I wonder how they can be as on as they are; life springs from them in a seemingly continuous stream. I, on the other hand, feel like I have to manage my energy, rationing my zeal lest I run out of it at an inconvenient time.
I sometimes feel like a Grinch who desperately wants to be a Who.
Love Actually is All Around
How does it happen every year? How do people manage to come together, after months, years, or even decades of separation, and catch up or reminisce with so little effort? How do they voluntarily subject themselves to gift exchanges, pressuring themselves to find a gift that fits with a certain theme and a particular person’s tastes? And how do they endure slogging through traffic and crowds and queues to buy presents that will be wrapped in fancy paper that will be unceremoniously ripped off and thrown away anyway?
I guess it’s because for a lot of us, we need a clear cue before we can show love. When we were young, we could just give a hug or invite someone to play randomly for no particular reason. We were open to every possibility the world had to offer. But as we grew older, we started having less time for childish things like games and friend-making. We became more sophisticated, wise in the ways of the world, and we learned about things like etiquette and social mores. We started learning the importance of being not too far from the norm, and we started caring about how we look and how what we do would look to others. Through this new lens, we started trusting less in love and more in motives, less in impulse and more in ramifications. To us adults, expressions of affection could be interpreted in any number of ways and could result in an unknown amount of drama, so we keep our warmth to ourselves.
A Random Break from Grinch-hood
Christmastime is a vacation not just from work, but from the adult way of thinking. During the Christmas season, we relax. During the Christmas season, we do all these silly things like giving presents hidden in boxes and wrapping paper to see the recipient’s eyes light up with joy, putting up decorations around the house with your family, and letting go of grudges to reunite with loved ones.
Sure, maybe we can see Christmas as an arbitrarily selected time of year during which you could love your neighbor. Maybe there’s no real rational explanation for why this should be a time more special than any other (aside from the fact that it’s regarded as the time of Jesus’ birth, which many people don’t take seriously).
But hey, love doesn’t need a reason, I suppose.