Thursday, November 12, 2015

First Holiday Season at Home

This morning, when I turned on the car radio, Christmas music was playing. After a moment's shock, instead of feeling the anticipation of the impending holidays, I was immediately overcome with sadness and a sense of emptiness. I cried.

Before Thailand (B.T.), I loved hearing Christmas music on the radio, looked forward to it, and was a little sad when it ended. But along with the music also comes the Holiday Season, and all the hopes and promises that come with it. It is something you're supposed to look forward to. From around Halloween until after New Year's, it's a huge build-up of commercialized frenzy, anticipation, and excitement, even though it's supposed to be a religious holiday. Kids put on holiday shows at school and at church, make lengthy wish lists of what they want Santa to bring them, talk for months about what they want for Christmas, make "holiday" crafts, bake cookies, eat said cookies and other holiday treats. They count down to Christmas and "track" Santa on where he is on his journey. Now, there's also Elf on the Shelf that may bring little gifts before Christmas arrives, and other gimmicks to get kids in the "holiday spirit" (because they really need help with that!). Christmas music is blared everywhere. Ads and commercials tell you all the wonderful Christmas surprises your loved ones will want and you should get them. Everywhere you go, everyone and everything dictate your feelings, behaviors, and actions. Holiday festivities and shows abound. People shop, shop, and shop some more in anticipation of the festivities they will put on and will attend. People get together and eat and drink and pretend that life is perfect and wonderful with no cares. Families get together and try to cram a whole year's worth of time together into one or two days. And the piles and piles of presents -- things that are cherished for the moment, but all too quickly forgotten and tossed aside for the amount of time and thought put into them.

It's supposed to be a "magical" time of the year, full of joy and love.

But when it's all over -- and it's always over much sooner than you expect and hope, and much quicker than all the time you put into preparing for it -- there's a sense of let-down and a void. People get on diets and "detox" programs to get rid of all the crap they put into their bodies for all those months. They exercise to lose the "holiday pounds." Life goes back to "normal." It was the roller-coaster emotional ride of the holidays that I could never get used to. You're high as a kite one day, and down in the dumps the next. Never having celebrated Christmas as a child, I could never really get into the "holiday spirit," and always thought the anticipation and commercialization of it were overblown. It felt like everyone pinning all their hopes and dreams on that one day. And it's gotten only worse, too, in my opinion -- much more commercialized and crazed.

In Thailand, it's much more low-key and manageable. Because Christmas is not celebrated in Thailand, there is no crazy hysteria over the holiday. Some places, like the westernized malls, and some restaurants and public places will decorate with lighting and play holiday music (which they also do in July...). Our school, being an international school with an American curriculum, puts on a big, elementary-wide holiday show. Each class may have a party with food from different parts of the world, depending on the nationalities of the kids in the class. Teachers receive little gifts from some of their students. But that is it. It starts in the beginning of December (not October or November) and ends before Christmas Day because the school's break begins at least one week before that. It is nice and sweet.

I don't know why hearing that Christmas music made me sad. Maybe it reminded me of all the past holiday seasons and the exhilaration that I felt while I was immersed in it, but also how hollow and unfulfilled it left me. And this year, it'll take extra effort to get through it because I haven't had to deal with it or felt this way for two years. It's taken me a while, but I'm beginning to realize that I can no longer deal with the over-the-top, emotional ups and downs that are so much a part of American life because I tend to internalize the mood of those around me. Americans are a passionate people, I'll give them that, and compared to, say, the Asians, they wear their emotions on their sleeves. They're elated, devastated, pissed off, depressed -- sometimes all within a day or even an hour! But I appreciate and connect more with the even-keeled temperament of the Asians. Even though there's no thrilling roller coaster ride with this type of temperament, being in a more emotionally stable environment not only takes the pressure off to have an opinion and emotion about everything. It also allows me to let go and brings a sense of peace and contentment that I've never felt here. For me, that is priceless and worth much more than any temporary sense of euphoria that the holiday season brings.

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