Day 12: Christmas Day

Merry Christmas, dear reader.

My mom woke me early, at about 8:00 AM. She wished me a Merry Christmas and then called me downstairs for breakfast. What she didn’t tell me was that she gathered the whole family of aunts, uncles and cousins that I barely speak to to share this marvelous day with us. So I had to spend the next half hour receiving hugs and kisses and pretending to remember names of distant relatives- All before my first cup of coffee. I swear there were at least thirty people in my living room, five of whom I recognized.

Someone shoved a mug of eggnog into my coffee-craving hands, and then we gathered around the Christmas tree to open presents. It was easily one of the most nerve racking experiences I’ve ever had, as I anxiously waited for my mother to open her gift. Since I waited until the last minute to buy her a gift, I was struggling last night. The only places open were gas stations, and I did not want to get my mother windshield wipers for Christmas. Luckily, some quick thinking led to an inspired bit of re-gifting on my part:

Cindy’s tacky gift for me was finally put to good use. My mom was thrilled when she received it, and she hasn’t taken it off all day. I don’t think I’ve been happier with Cindy’s poor taste.

What did I get for Christmas? A whole smattering of exquisitely decorated, clichéd presents: Hot chocolate, mandarin oranges, Christmas movies, a sweater. One of my aunts gave me “snowman poop”- a creative gag gift- then laughed maniacally for what seemed like half an hour. My mom gave me her staple gift of new underwear, in a clever “coal” bag, and a hand-knitted Santa hat- which I’m still wearing as I type this.

Even my annoying cousin Mary who I never speak to got me Jingle All the Way on DVD- which happens to be my favorite Christmas movie. Her look of joy as I opened her gift made me feel guilty enough to tell her I got her a gift too. Then I hastily ran upstairs to re-gift to her the UofC sweater I originally bought for Cindy. Mary was so thrilled she managed to make me smile despite myself.

My mom then handed me a small brown envelope that came in the mail. It had my name on it. I opened the envelope and read the card my father sent me. It wished me a Merry Christmas, and there was a brief note inside. “I hope you have a wonderful time, Love, Dad.” I smiled, and then went upstairs to set the the card on the mantle in my room. The same mantle that holds the baseball me and my dad used to toss around.

My mom then asked me and my cousins to pick up some dinner rolls that she forgot to get for Christmas dinner. As we were leaving the store with our purchases, we noticed some kids having a snowball fight in the parking lot. My cousins and I exchanged sideways looks, and next thing we knew, we were engaged in a rousing snowball fight with some neighborhood kids. In a Sobey’s parking lot. I have to say, I took way to much pleasure in thrashing the little brats. I felt like Buddy the Elf:

Oh well, I guess that’s one way for me to relieve my stress.

We got some drinks from Starbucks to warm us up while dinner was being prepared. It’s worth noting that the last time I drank something out of those patented red cups it was in the middle of a stressful experience with Cindy. But as I sat sipping my Peppermint Mocha by the fire, exchanging silly stories with my cousins, I was at total ease.

As I type this, my mom is setting the table. My cousins and I are sitting around the TV watching A Charlie Brown Christmas. I’ve probably seen it a hundred times, so I took this time to type out my last blog entry (at least until next year). I can smell the meal that my mom is preparing, mingled with cinnamon and peppermint. I can hear my aunts laughing from the kitchen. I see some of my cousins sucking on candy canes. It’s the most Christmassy atmosphere I’ve been in all year.

I think of all the frustrations I had this year, and how I grew to hate this season. So how is it that I have nothing to complain about today? Don’t get me wrong, I still have a fair number of issues with the season. But I guess it doesn’t all have to be an angsty experience. I mean, everyone around me is smiling. So it just makes sense for me to set aside my issues and enjoy the day with my family. Because despite all my issues, and despite the fact that Christ wasn’t really born today, there’s an undeniable spirit to this season. I mean, why else would all these people be so damn cheerful on an annual basis?

My mom’s calling us all to the table. The chaotic dinner is about to begin. I’m sure I can bear it.

I think I’m done.

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Day 11: Christmas Eve Mass

I figured I would not post anything on this blog until Christmas day. However, I just got back from Christmas Eve mass, and I felt the need to share my feelings. The best word to use to describe this sermon would be “interesting”. As I fidgeted in my best suit I tried my best to listen to the priest’s sermon. He mentioned how we must “honour the precious gift given to us on the blessed day of Christmas”. It’s the same sermon that I hear every year- that makes vague references, but never fully speaks about the materialism, greed and commercialization of this holiday. The holiday that was meant to celebrate Christ’s birth, has become a symbol for shopping sprees at the mall. If it was me standing at that podium, I would find it hard to keep from yelling at the congregation for being greedy idiots.

And while the priest kept referring to Christ and how we should remember him, it only served to create more frustration for me. After all, Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th. The New Testament makes no mention of the date of Jesus’ birth. Pardon me as I enlighten the masses in my best poindexter voice, but the reason why we celebrate Christmas on December 25th is because the Romans wanted to amalgamate the holiday with the traditions of their winter holiday – Saturnalia – after they converted to Christianity. So when the priest continuously made note of how we’ve strayed from the original message of Christmas, I rolled my eyes and sighed out loud. You can’t put the “Christ” back in Christmas, because he was never there in the first place!

As I stood amongst the congregation I wondered why all these people gathered here each year. I wondered why they bothered coming to mass and faking their interest, when they never attend Church for the rest of the year.

As I drove my mom home, she turned to me and smiled. “That was a lovely sermon” she said. I turned to her, and momentarily lost track of my anger. I looked at this woman who diligently came to church every Sunday, and how she was at ease in this season that I despised. She turned on the radio and “Silent Night” came on. My mom sang along with it, smiling broadly. I thought of how all the conceited people at Church did not get what Christmas was about, but my mum did. It was still frustrating, but a bit subdued.

Then I remembered that I still had not got her a Christmas gift.

And that’s another reason why I hate Christmas

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Day 10: Meeting old friends

There’s a bittersweet feeling about being back home in Winnipeg. I’m sleeping in my childhood bedroom, surrounded by the posters of Death Cab, Mumford and Sons, The Shins, and all the other bands I worshiped in my high school years. On my desk beside my bed, there’s an old desktop computer that I spent my life savings on the summer before grade 11…It looks like an ancient artifact now, covered in dust. It’s covered with stickers that I found at the game shop down the street… It’s bringing back all the memories, good and bad, from growing up. God, I am so glad I’m done those years. Whoever said high school was the best years of a person’s life was clearly pissed out of his mind.

On my wall, beside the window, there’s a photo of my friends from high school and I drinking together at a house party after graduation… These are the kinds of friendships that I like to call “fishbowl friendships”… the kind of friendship where you stay friends with someone mostly because you have to. After high school, none of us kept in touch much… Not surprising since we had no common interests. The only thing we had in common was our graduation date. Well, when some of these guys caught wind of my being in Winnipeg for Christmas, they all decided it would be a fantastic idea to meet up for drinks and catch up. So we headed out to the old watering hole, Shannon’s Irish Pub.

As it usually happens during reunions like this, it turns into a competition of who’s doing better at this stage of our lives. This night was odd though. Two of my friends wound up working dead end jobs, and the other is studying engineering. It was clear that we had little in common. I was glad that we had alcohol to loosen the obvious tension that comes with this season. The season does put a lot of pressure on us to play nice and get along, so me and my friends were pretty comfortable with each other. But like most aspects of the season, this comfort soon expires in January. And that night, as I sat reminiscing with my friends, it was clear that we’ve all grown apart and grown up (or not), and those things will probably divide us forever.

See you next year boys… maybe.

And that’s another reason why I hate Christmas.

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Day 9: Travelling

I write this blog entry on my mother’s old desktop computer, from the old home in Winnipeg. It’s a balmy -40 degrees, I left my backpack at home, and I had one of the worst flights in my life. I got to the airport, and purchased my ticket at the very last minute. It cost me almost 800 dollars. I quietly purchased the ticket, then walked to the nearest washroom and cursed out loud a string of obscenities bad enough to make small children cry. When I was checking in my luggage, I realised I left my backpack at home. This time I did curse out loud, drawing shocked expressions.

The flight wound up being delayed due to poor weather conditions. FOR THREE HOURS. I was incredibly bored with no book or MP3 player to take my mind off things, so I walked around the terminal over three times, and took in all of the awful sights that go in hand with this season. Ridiculously overpriced souvenirs like Santa cowboy hats and Calgary snow globes being marketed as “the perfect Christmas gift”. I thought about all the clichéd lectures my dad gave me, and I grew frustrated when I remembered seeing him at the mall.

When I finally got on the plane, I was seated between a mother and her infant, and a man with the bladder the size of a pea. I spent the flight budging to let the guy go to the washroom, and desperately trying to drown out a kid’s crying by watching the in-flight entertainment – “Alvin and the Chipmunks – Chipwrecked”. It was a total disaster of a flight.

I arrived in Winnipeg and after waiting for a good hour I realised the airline had lost my luggage. I struggled to keep a calm voice as I made my complaint. Then I caught a cab home, which was an ordeal in itself, since few cabs were operating in the poor conditions. When I finally got home my mother instantly dramatized the whole situation, making my awful travelling experience seem monumentally worse.

I now sit in my old room, in my old PJs (three sizes too small), knowing fully well that I will probably have to shovel the mountain of snow that’s piled up on my mom’s driveway. (Does the woman never leave the house?).

And that’s another reason why I hate Christmas.

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Day 8: Office Christmas Party

I attended my office Christmas party this past week. As it often happens with these parties, it’s the kind of event that you either look forward to and spend a copious amount of time prepping for, or the kind of event you blow off in favor of anything else, even if it’s sitting at home, on the couch, alone, watching the paint dry.

This year, when I saw my boss post the notice for the annual office Christmas party, I was planning on blowing it off. As a general rule, I’d rather chew off my own arm than attend one of these dreadful gatherings. Besides, I don’t even know half the people I work with. I work at a massive department store, and half the people who work there are just trying to get by while remaining as anonymous as possible. That’s why the service always sucks. And the people that I do know, I have no interest in partying with, especially over a holiday I hate!

This year was different. These awkward social gatherings also provide great opportunities to get plastered stupid on the bosses’ tab. When you’re a student, you don’t pass up on that kind of opportunity. And frankly, after breaking up with Cindy, I definitely was in need of some bottle nurturing. So I called up my buddy and bribed him to come with me with a promise of future beers and pizza on me.

Here’s where this festive occasion takes a sour turn…

There was no liquor at this party. There was about fifty of us, all gathered awkwardly in a community hall listening to Boney M.’s Christmas album. We sat at tables that were all decked out in tinsel and other crap. If you thought your first school dance was awkward, you clearly were not at this “party”.

And instead of liquor, the boss set out a spread of baked goods, some hot chocolate, apple cider, and an awkwardly obvious Costco cake. You know, the black forest cake that you see at Aunt Hilda’s along with the gallon of No Name vanilla ice cream. The spread was definitely child friendly. Even though there were no children present.

So there we were, my buddy and I, drinking hot chocolate, watching my boss try and make the crowd participate in awkward team building festive games. If I could imagine a Hell, I’m pretty sure it would look like this party. The only game we took part in was the gingerbread house building competition. Ours didn’t win. Probably because we turned ours into a boat. Screw the house! Everyone wants to be on a boat! At least we got to take it home.

We decided to ditch the party early, then tried and failed to catch a cab. So we walked to the nearest liquor store with our boat, then strolled home and got slowly shit-faced on our own dime.

Did I mention I hate Christmas?

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Day 7: Dinner with Cindy’s parents

Cindy broke up with me.

How do I explain my feelings at the moment? I’m certainly not happy. But I don’t think I’m sad either.

It happened right after dinner with her parents, another train wreck that is a testament to most social gatherings that occur this time of year. I realize now that I was in no state of mind to sit at a table and listen to Cindy and her parents express their pretentious joy while subtly criticizing me.

As I’ve already stated, dear reader, my disdain with this season is not an irrational one that appeared suddenly. It came about through a series of bad experiences which haunt me to this day. And Cindy knew all of these.

At dinner, Cindy animatedly told her parents how we decided to decorate her house early and much fun we had. I could barely contain my displeasure at her statement, since decorating her house was as much fun as a root canal at the dentist and her parents immediately noticed. Cindy put them at ease though, by informing them that I eventually came around and enjoyed myself. Her father wasn’t entirely pleased though. I can still picture his agitated face as he asked me why I was so unhappy.

Why was I unhappy? Why don’t you ask your precious daughter? But of course, Cindy sat there with a vapid smile on her face. It was the short underhanded comment that Mr. L said that really put me over the edge. Looking directly at me he said something about how people need to celebrate this time of year, despite any killjoys. I had to excuse myself from the table because my blood was quickly rising to my head. As I walked away I heard Cindy calm her parents’ indignation by informing them that we were looking forward to this.

At that point, I lost it. It’s a wonder I didn’t yell at her. She sat there at the table smiling. The same smile that I thought was so beautiful when I first met her. All it was now was evidence of her blissful ignorance. So I walked up to the table and I told her that we practically don’t exist anymore. I told her that she’s always only thought of herself, and shown no consideration for me. She told me that I shouldn’t speak to her that way just because I have some “small annoyance” with this season. I couldn’t believe she could ignore all of those conversations I shared with her explaining my displeasure. I shared with her personal stories about the tumultuous family Christmases and how my father left me at Christmas. And now she sat there telling me how I had a “small annoyance” with the season. How is my father deserting our family at Christmas a “small annoyance???”

On the ride home, I tried to talk to her, but she dismissed me. So I sat there, and silently drove her home. All the while I thought about how this wonderful girl, with her optimistic cheerful attitude had now become unbearable to be around. When we arrived at her house, I didn’t lean in to kiss her. I just sat there staring out of my windshield. All she said was, “we are done.” Cold. Heartless. Just like the season. Then she left the car.

I spent the last few hours playing video games. I tried to distract myself, but there’s only one thing that I could do, and that’s talk about it. But at this hour, it’s too late to talk to anyone. So I’m talking to you, dear reader.

This is another reason why I hate Christmas.

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Day 6: Christmas Shopping

Obviously I would follow up that depression meeting at Hillhurst United Church last week with a trip to Chinook Mall for Christmas shopping this week. The drive to Chinook Mall was a piece of yule log and holy night the mall parking lot was crazy. There was even a policeman directing the car traffic. In a parking lot. Once again, this merry season presents itself to me through wondrous bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Just walking into the mall I could see the greed in people’s eyes, especially the children. I walked by some kids in line to see Santa and I overheard each of them telling their parents what they’ll be asking Santa for. I shudder to think that children can be indoctrinated by our consumer driven world at such a young age. They’re already starting to think about what they want tomorrow, while ignoring what they have today. The hustle and bustle happening in the mall was so unnerving; I hadn’t even begun my shopping and already, I was ready to get out of there.

It felt a bit like this:

Store after store, and nothing was catching my eye for the people I had planned to buy gifts for, including Cindy. I think after going to 115 out of the 250 stores I found a potential gift for Cindy but it carried a price tag that made me exclaim out loud, drawing shocked looks from random strangers. I remember her squeels of excitement whenever we passed Pandora’s and her quivering hand that pointed at their charm bracelets. I sheepishly told the salesperson I would think about it since I’m not sure how willing I am to spend an arm and a leg for a Pandora bracelet.

I was getting pretty sick of the holly jolly crap in the mall, so I got ready to head out. I passed more shoppers with greed in their eyes, and then as I was about to head out, I noticed a bin for the Calgary Food Bank. I decided that this trip shouldn’t be a total waste and headed to Zellers to pick up a pack of mac n’ cheese that I deposited with the food bank. As I was about to leave the mall, I received a text message that was a surprising lift to my spirits.


I got home, and soon after, Cindy was at my front door with the biggest grin on her face. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing. Cindy, in her sickly sweet sense of mind, decided to get me an early Christmas gift. How wonderfully charming. Then, in her kindest, most wonderfully convincing voice, says that I now have something to wear to dinner with her parents.

Joy to the World.

And that’s another reason why I hate Christmas.

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