Merry sober Christmas. For now.
Christmas wasn’t always like this. Growing up as a Jewish child meant I was an anomaly. Not celebrating Christmas made me feel different, separate, lonely. Though we had an annual barbecue celebration with our close family friends, I always felt an unspoken distance from the holiday. A barrier not physical, but still tangible. More observer than participant. As a kid I wanted nothing more than to enjoy Christmas, to hold it as part of my identity. Of course, being a child, I wanted big gifts. There’s no escaping that. Still, there was something more, something deeper. I wanted to belong, to feel like I had a place in the joy everyone else seemed to be absorbed in. Despite the festivities surrounding me, despite being physically present in a Christmas environment, I wasn’t really there so to speak.
An open wound will inevitably scab over in time. As such, the feelings surrounding Christmas dulled as I aged. No longer did I ache to belong, those desires had calloused as I hardened emotionally. My wants shifted as I reversed my position. How does one deal with rejection? Well if I couldn’t have it, I didn’t want it. I did everything I could to make my position known. I’d openly reject Yuletide sentiment in favour of seclusion. Christmas Day came down to myself, a bottle of spirits and the internet. While everyone was off with family, I had the one person I could always count on. I deluded myself into thinking that loneliness was the closest I could come to owning what I felt I’d been deprived of. The Christmas spirit wasn’t for me, so I’d find spirits that were. Nobody had put me there, it was something I’d done to myself. It was something I felt I deserved and made no effort to change it.
Then I left home, left my country. No longer surrounded by the southern hemisphere’s sunny atmosphere, a Winter’s Christmas was cold and even lonelier. Suddenly I didn’t even have a choice about company, I was lonely because I had nobody else.
Christmas has changed. I don’t know if I warmed as a person, if maturity eroded my Fortress of Solitude. All I know is that being put into a situation where I had nothing around me unless I made it, I craved something more than what I’d built. Sometimes hunger is the best motivation and I felt famished. I salvaged the rubble and created foundations brick by brick in hopes of making a home.
This year the house is warm, filled with a cappella carols and the smell of slow cooked turkey. It’s clean, the fridge is stocked and wine is plentiful. There’s a curious lull with a hint of excitement in the air. Guests will flow in over the next few hours and both the physical and sentimental warmth will grow three sizes. An overdose of food, laughs and less sober activity. Friends who are without family this time of year. Others who seek company and a place for them to find it. Knowing how I felt for so many years has spurred me to action, to shape what I wanted for others to enjoy.
My girlfriend and I had a morning of lazy bedtime, exchanging presents and leaving the house in our onesies on a quest for coffee. It’s been a boon to have time just for us, a celebration of what we have together, someone else to share the day with.
This time last year we said “I love you” for the first time. It was organic, unplanned, but felt just right. Christmas now feels like a celebration of knowing, belonging. Christmas is no longer a badge of loneliness, but a symbol of togetherness. Christmas is no longer about me and only me. Christmas to me is now about us.
That feels like something to raise a glass to.