For those of us who love Christmastime and all the joy, hope and togetherness that comes along with it, there is a process we must undergo every year when this, our most cherished of holidays, comes to an abrupt, squealing halt, with a cold finality that makes us question whether the holidays ever really happened at all.
The process is grief.
Yes, Christmas-lovers truly grieve the loss of our beloved holiday. In the weeks following Santa’s return to the North Pole, we find ourselves lumbering through sweaty Christmas withdrawals in a state of twitchy, gape-mouthed catatonia. Perhaps you understand what I’m talking about. Perhaps you’ll recognize yourself in these seven stages of the post-Christmas blues. (Just know that you are not alone in your suffering.)
1. Shock or Disbelief
“Wait. That’s it?! I’ve been planning Christmas for two frickin’ months and it’s just…over? How can this be?!”
You might find yourself standing at the threshold of your living room staring glassy-eyed into a mountain of partially unboxed toys and crumpled-up wrapping paper, looking at the mess but not really seeing it. You might turn around and shuffle to the kitchen to pour yourself the last of the eggnog (extra heavy on the rum), but you won’t really taste it going down.
“I’m fine. I’m happy I don’t have to remember to move that fucking elf every night anymore.”
You might suddenly find yourself in the Christmas decor aisle at Target (“How did I get here?”), picking up some new outdoor lights (“OMG icicles! 75% off!!!”) and sparkly wrapping paper (“This can be next year’s Santa paper!”), coming home to your husband and holding up nine bags of clearance Christmas decorations while screaming into his face, “Look how much money I saved!”
“No one even noticed how much effort I put into making Christmas perfect! Insufferable bunch of ingrates.”
You might find yourself dumping perfectly edible leftover green bean casserole down the garbage disposal just to spite your napping husband, or kicking new toys into a pile in the corner, because how many times do you have to ask your children to put away their crap? Everyone on earth is basically an asshole.
“Next year, I’ll wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the tree, I promise. Please, just give me one more day.”
Except you know damn well you’ll put up your tree before Thanksgiving next year, just like you do every year, and you’ll post pictures of it on Facebook, too, with some overly enthusiastic caption like, “I know it’s early but I just can’t help myself. SQUEEE!” and just as they did this year, your friends will roll their eyes at you, but you won’t care because you’re secretly smugger than a vulture at an elephant carcass that you have your shit together enough to erect a tree before anyone else you know.
“The Christmas tree is just lying out there on the curb, dried-up, naked, limp, alone…”
You’ll never forgive yourself for not smashing your face into its succulent, piney branches just one last time, deep-inhaling like a stoner at a Grateful Dead concert. You didn’t appreciate the twinkling lights enough. You forgot to move the elf three times, for Pete’s sake. There was that one time you listened to Top 20 in the car instead of Christmas carols. And several times you forgot to switch on the outdoor light display. You could have done better. You could have done more. And now, now it’s all over. It’s too late.
“I’ll never get this string of lights back in the box the way they were when I first bought them. I can’t remember what happiness feels like…”
At this point, there is really nothing anyone can say to lift your spirits. It is also extremely unhelpful that right around this time, you’ll get your credit card statement in the mail. Just know that there are brighter days ahead, my friend. Keep muddling through.
7. Acceptance and Hope
“These new storage bins are pretty practical, really. I mean, look how neatly my wrapping supplies fit under the bed! And I suppose it’s nice that we can finally put the easy chair back in its regular spot.”
You’ll vacuum those last pine needles out of the crack between the carpet and the baseboards, and you’ll finally find a place for those awkwardly shaped toys that your kids begged you for and now totally ignore. You’ll stop humming “Jingle Bells” and start thinking of all the cool things you can do to celebrate the other (lesser, inferior) holidays yet to come in the new year, all of them—let’s face it—a mere countdown to next Christmas.
Well? What stage are you in?