Blue Christmas: I Love the Holidays, Even the Annoying Parts

blue Christmas, sad Christmas, hurt in the holidays, sad holidays

You know all those articles that start appearing this time of year about “How to Avoid Packing On the Holiday Pounds” and “How to Stay Sane This Holiday Season”?

This is not one of those articles.

This is, instead, your diehard indulgent friend telling you that holiday treats are awesome, and maybe, given how horrible this year has been, eating an entire plate of pigs in a blanket is permissible.

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Isn’t this the season when we’re drawn into ugly holiday sweater contests? Slap that sucker on every day to cover a multitude of snacking sins!

My sister-in-law brought gingerbread hearts back from a business trip to Sweden, and I’ve been eating them for breakfast every day this week, with caramel iced coffee to wash them down. Forget a sensible holiday diet plan. This is your keeping-it-real buddy reminding you that Spanx make great stocking stuffers. ’Tis the season to be fluffy.

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I don’t want to talk you out of your “Christmas crazies.” The Christmas season is harried and disappointing and wondrous and spiritually uplifting and socially claustrophobic and lonely and sentimental—and maybe we should surrender to this fact.

I’m emotionally all over the place myself. Given the upheaval in the world right now, the thought of sending out Christmas cards makes me want to scream in frustration I’ve never felt before. Yet, as ever, the Charlie Brown Christmas special makes me cry, especially when Linus wraps his security blanket around the base of the scrawny little tree Charlie Brown picked out and says, “I never thought it was such a bad little tree.”

Blue Christmas

In my book Grace for Amateurs, I document the challenges—and rewards—of spiritual surrender, the first step of which is acceptance. If we can accept as solid fact that the holiday are one big emotional volcano—with all kinds of Major Feels exploding every which way—we can move from acceptance to uplift, shining a light that we can then use to guide and inspire others.

So, I’ve started my own #BlueChristmas hashtag campaign to lighten our spirits. It’s simple—across social media (Ye Olde Twitter, the Book of Face, the Instagram)—I’m posting photos of holiday things that bring me a spark of happiness, sharing tweets that that make me reflect, quoting poems and spiritual verses that make my heart sing. It’s my own way of sharing inspiration and encouragement, even for those in the absolute holiday dumps.

Perhaps you will join me. Because connecting is just a hashtag away.

We are now in the season of advent, which began the fourth Sunday before Christmas. As I reflected elsewhere,

Advent is also a period that offers the opportunity for great stillness and while contemplating of the meaning of our faith. I am using these days to remind myself that graceful resistance in the face of hostility is a sacred act. Faith is not a passive activity, its benefits not abstract. Advent is a prompt to hold onto hope in the dark.

In her poem ‘The Birth of Wonder’ Madeline L’Engle wrote,

‘When I am able to pray with the mind in the heart, I am joyfully able to affirm the irrationality of Christmas.’

When we feel powerless and despairing, we can actively engage and embrace this holiday and its message of miraculous promise. We can love our neighbor and welcome the stranger. We can affirm the political power of compassion. And we can exalt the subversion of irrational joy.

So that’s what #BlueChristmas is about: trying—despite all the darkness in the world—to grab onto some of that yummy, soul-shaking, irrational joy. You don’t have to join in to feel its benefits; goodwill is quantum, radiating out into the universe, unbound.

Like the #BlueChristmas vibes, my best wishes go out to you and yours. Even if your heart is at its heaviest, may at least some of your days be merry and bright. And may your holiday sweater be the ugliest one ever.

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Lily Burana is a punk rocker turned writer and editor.  She the author of three books, including her latest, Grace for Amateurs. 

Her recent interest in religious and spiritual issues has broadened her audience. Pieces by Lily about faith have been published in The New York Times Sunday Edition, The Los Angeles TimesThe Washington Post, and syndicated by the Religion News Service. To follow Lily, check out her Instagram.

HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., operates Page Chaser, the publisher of Grace for Amateurs.

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