Maybe Christmas means a little bit more

RachelAnn Degnan, Columnist

The holidays are the best time of the year because of the feeling in the air that brings happiness and warmth to even the grumpiest around us.

I know this all too well because this year, I wanted to be like the Grinch. I wanted to hate Christmas and despise anyone who participated in the holidays. Please don’t ask me why, I don’t quite know the exact reason.

It could have been that my heart was too sad, for I wanted to sit down at a table full of my loved ones and share a meal. I wanted to tell stories and watch my mother make the same seasonal jokes. I wanted my father to read the Christian Bible’s Luke chapter two like he did every year and talk about the birth of Christ. Lastly, I wanted to kick my older brother from under the table and make him jump at the most inopportune times.

As December crept closer, I reminded myself I could have none of this. My brother was quarantined across the state, and both of my parents had passed away.

In my sadness and anger, I decided I would hate Christmas this year. I would hate having to leave my life in Ellensburg to go to my hometown and take care of my grandparents and little cousins.

I would hate the amount of money I spent on gifts, and most of all, I would hate that dreaded Christmas Eve dinner with the multiple vacant chairs. I didn’t have to go home, and I seriously considered spending my holidays binge-watching “Gilmore Girls.” But when I thought of my young cousins, aunt, uncle and grandparents, my heart was warmed, and I felt called home.

As I walked through the front door, I could smell the spiced pecans my grandmother makes every year. The house was freshly decorated with the same Nativity scenes I had played with since I was young, and our traditional white stockings hung gingerly from the fireplace. I was surprisingly reminded of how tradition-based Christmas truly is.

According to PsychAlive, traditions remind us of where we came from and how much we have accomplished. For me, traditions remind me of a simpler time where I did not care about taxes or the constant growth of gas prices.

I felt a calming peace rush over me as I stood in the warm suburban home I had lived in most of my high school years and remember the holidays of my past. Growing anticipation for the Christmas dinner overwhelmed my heart, yet I continued to convince myself that I needed to be a Grinch, and I was not allowed to enjoy the holidays.

I struggled to keep my promise, and each day I felt happy and joyful to be surrounded with love, tradition and snow.

Harvard Medical School found evidence that a “lack of strong relationships increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50% – an effect on mortality risk roughly comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and greater than obesity and physical inactivity.”

Spending time with family renews our mental and physical health. During the holidays everyone has a chance to heal and recover from the trouble that haunts their normal days.

There is a peaceful quietness that comes a few days before Christmas. The presents are wrapped, there is no homework or work and the entire town is sparkling with lights. All activities involve some form of bonding with loved ones, and even a nice brisk walk to look at your neighbor’s decorations warms the spirit.

There is a togetherness that spreads through our entire nation. Somehow, somewhere, everyone is with someone on Christmas.

We remember the homeless, the starving, the orphans, and the unloved and we donate or invite them into our homes to be a part of the festivities. After all, isn’t that how the Grinch learned to love Christmas? Maybe not in his original story, but modern-day stories teach the lesson that all it takes sometimes is a single act of kindness.

Just like that, my dreaded Christmas eve dinner was here. The Christmas tree was shining, the decorations were up and it was time to eat. The moment I was planning to hate the most out of 2020 had come. We all clasped hands, and my grandfather said a prayer.

I looked across the table and felt a sudden peace. Now I like to think I am not sentimental, but as I looked at my 12 and 9-year-old cousins and the smiles out- stretched on their faces, I remembered being their ages and the joy and happiness I felt with my family.

For a grief-ridden moment, I imagined my parents sitting at the table with smiles that reminded me Christmas doesn’t come from a store, and Christmas perhaps means a little bit more. What happened then? Well in my household they say that my cold icy heart grew three sizes that day. The holidays are special because of the memories you make, so don’t take a single thing for granted, that’s a mistake!