Blue Christmas (Advent Calendar Day 4)

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When I was younger, my church started a tradition called “Blue Christmas”.  During the first week or so of December, there would be a special Christmas worship service for anyone for whom Christmas was less than a 100% joyful experience.  (Really, isn’t that most of us?)

One lesser-known fact about Kat is that she lost her father at Christmas time.  She almost never talks about it, but every year the presence of his absence colors her experience of Christmas.  She also is not a huge fan of Christmas because she works in retail and dreads the crowds of stressed-out, angry shoppers determined to out-shop everyone else.

For some, Christmas is a wonderfully happy time filled with anticipation, family, and celebration.

For some, Christmas is pure misery.

For some (I think probably the majority), Christmas is a time of both loss and joy.  Maybe we burden ourselves with expectations of providing the “perfect” day for our children, partner/spouse, or family.  Especially in times that are economically difficult for many, maybe Christmas means wishing we could provide for our families.  Maybe we are separated from family, and an international holiday only reinforces that loss of family.  Maybe we can’t stand the enforced socialization of alcohol-laced office “parties” that require fancy dress and fake smiles on what should be our off time.  Maybe it is caring for a terminally ill loved one who may not make it through the holiday season.

Maybe, especially as we grow older, Christmas reminds us of loved ones who are no longer with us.  I think of my beloved grandmother who taught me to crochet.  A friend from high school who, before he was old enough to graduate, decided that life was no longer worth living.  A friend’s younger brother who died before graduating from elementary school.

Celebrations and happy times are wonderful, but sometimes watching other people’s celebrations can make it more painful to experience our own loss.  I’ve mentioned before that Christmas this year will be a quiet one for me, and instead of feeling sorry for myself I want to focus on celebrating what and who I do have with me.  Still, today I would like to honor those for whom Christmas may be a bit difficult.  You are not alone, and what you are experiencing is 100% okay.

Today’s Advent Calendar question is: If we were attending a Blue Christmas event today, who or what would be on your mind?  If the question is too personal, feel free to substitute this question: What about Christmas do you find difficult?

If nothing about Christmas is difficult for you (lucky you!), then perhaps: Had you ever thought about the holiday season not always being positive?

However, please don’t talk about pet peeves because that is a question for another day.  🙂

.

P.S.  For more on reaching out to someone who is having a difficult time, please read my guest post today at Renee’s blog.

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55 thoughts on “Blue Christmas (Advent Calendar Day 4)

  1. SassyTwatter says:

    Very thoughtful post. I read it as I lay in bed struggling to sleep. Many happiness celebrations also bring tears. If I were to attend a blue Christmas ever my thoughts would go to my Mormor (Swedish for maternal grandmother). We went back to celebrate with her every year and now that she has passed her 9 children and 30 something odd grandchildren no longer seem to all make the effort to celebrate together. Lives change people have new obligations would be nice though that everyone few years we could still get everybody to celebrate.

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  2. abby says:

    My dad….it wll be 2 years that he died in January….with 4 little ones in the family now, he would be in his glory. Remembering him brings smiles and tears.
    hugs abby

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    • Ana says:

      And how you glory in your own family. I am sure your little ones will grow up hearing story after story about their grandfather.

      I only met my grandfather once, but I heard so many stories about him all my life that sometimes I forget that I never knew him myself. I am sure that your little ones will grow up to “know” your dad in a similar way.

      Hugs.

      Like

  3. Joseph McNamara says:

    Blue Christmas for me means a remembrance of those not with us anymore. Certainly my wife who left the world in an instant one day. But it also calls to mind those less fortunate. I was attending a service in Florida last year and as we were entering the church, there sat a homeless man. I asked him if he was all right, he replied he “just wanted to hear some Christmas music.” I invited him in with us and we sat in the back. He was elated in his somewhat disarray, and slowly brought my sadness for him into joy also. We helped him to a shelter, where he could hear more music and get a nice meal. We actually were volunteers there and were able to share a meal at the end of the day with him. So, Blue Christmas for me means remembering those with less and trying to change the color for them at least for a day…..

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    • Ana says:

      Joseph, you always inspire me. I know that’s a bit of a burden to put on anyone, but your instantaneous loss of your beloved wife would make many (if not most) people bitter. That you remember and honor her and use that memory in an effort to better the world around you…you inspire me.

      There is a reason that your poetry has depth and beauty, and that reason is your capacity for love.

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  4. Joelle Casteel says:

    My “Blue Christmas” would be morning the fact that my mother is one of the least maternal women I know. Especially during the holidays, I often hear “well at least she’s alive,” which only seems to grind salt into the wounds of her abuse.

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    • Ana says:

      Sometimes the complications of relationships are very much more difficult at holiday times. I am glad that you have your loved one close to you to support you in these times.

      Like

  5. Armineh Ohanian says:

    We have so many people to think about this Christmas on Long Island, NY, who lost their homes and belongings during the past terrible hurricane. I will also be thinking about my dear brother who died a few months ago.

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    • Ana says:

      Armineh, are people back to electricity and rebuilding after the storm? I couldn’t believe how horrible it was. I hope everyone has heat at the very least.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. *gentle virtual hugs*

      I’m also thankful for the warmth and grace that you bring to these discussions. So glad that we didn’t scare you off. 🙂

      Like

      • Armineh Ohanian says:

        Dear Ana, yes, electricity has been back for a while now. Thank you for your concern, and thanks for your kind remarks about my brother’s loss. I am very happy to participate in your group chats. You all sound like very sincere and friendly people. Why would you have scared me? What right have I got to judge anybody. Actually, I have some problem with my way of thinking with certain friends, family members and even my own daughter. In Apple Tree Blossoms in the Fall, which is the fictionalized version of my memoir, I write aboute me marrying a cabaret dancer’s illigitimate son…frawned at in any culture, let alone in a Middle Eastern strict sociey…

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        • Ana says:

          We *are* a little bit crazy, Armineh, but I try to blame as much of that on others as I can. 🙂

          As a matter of fact, someone just yesterday mentioned how much she enjoyed your Fika.

          I hadn’t thought about that connection about judging, but you are absolutely right. We all have things that we could be judged by. Some of it is just more visible than others.

          Like

  6. Celeste Jones says:

    What an interesting and thoughtful post Ana. Thank you.

    What I’ve realized this morning is that most of what I don’t like about Christmas falls into the pet peeves category rather than being Blue, so I ought to quit bitchin’ about it.

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  7. pao says:

    I think, if I were to attend a blue Christmas my thoughts would be with a close friend whose parents died in the boxing day tsunami. That mix of hope and dread in finding out who survived or didn’t while watching the death toll rise was sickening. So much has changed since then. I’m glad she came home alive.

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    • Ana says:

      It’s a hard balance between appreciating what/who we have while at the same time respectfully honoring the enormity of the loss, isn’t it?

      There is something about being part of a large-scale tragedy that is lifelong. It’s confusing to grow up in times like that when you can’t take for granted the foundation of your world. I am glad that your friend was safe, and I am glad that you are safe.

      Like

  8. Minelle says:

    I will be thinking of a very good friend who just experienced a devastating traumatic loss. Her Christmas will be very sad. I hope that I can share some time with her family and offer comfort.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I wish I could remember that saying by someone (help me if anyone knows it), “Tell me how your neighbors have suffered, and I will tell you how you have loved them.”

      I can see you showing up at your friend’s house with a casserole and a shoulder to cry on. I am glad that you are there for her.

      Like

  9. Sue Lyndon says:

    Blue Christmas for me this year will be worrying if it’s the last Christmas I spend with my grandparents. They are both very old and require 24/7 medical care, so as i prepare to spend Christmas with them this year, I can’t help but wonder if it’s the last one. 😦

    Like

    • Ana says:

      You have little ones *and* big ones who need care, you busy woman.

      I hope that you will be able to create lovely memories this Christmas so that you can look back and remember how much love your family shares.

      Like

    • Ana says:

      You and Sue reminded me that Christmas sadness isn’t always about loss but can also be about possible future loss. Knowing something may be the last time does influence our experience of it, doesn’t it?

      Sometimes I wonder, if I had a choice, whether I’d prefer to have a happy last experience not knowing or if I’d want to know so I could make the best of it.

      xx

      Like

  10. Kelsey Summer says:

    Your post really makes me think. While I do love watching my little one on Christmas morning and seeing his excitement this whole season, I still, after almost 20 years miss my grandmother. She died the day before Thanksgiving 19 years ago and Christmas hasn’t been the same since. I’ve lost other friends and relatives over the years, but it’s my Nana who I still think about during the holiday season. I wish she could have met my children. My teen daughter is so much like her.

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    • Ana says:

      I like to make people think. Maybe more than people want to be made to think. 🙂

      To watch small children at Christmas time is a gift. They grow up so fast, though!

      Do you have any traditions to pass on memories of your Nana to your own children?

      Like

  11. Julia says:

    Well, my parents are both dead, but that hurts more on other days. I so miss their call on my birthdays.
    What I dislike most about Christmas is that one of my children lives at the other side of the world, so no shared holidays with her and her family. The consolation is that they are happy and that we still share our love for each other.

    Hugs, Julia

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Do you at least get to share conversation over Skype? I know it’s not the same, but it is something. It was only a few years ago that Skype wasn’t possible, and international calls were terribly expensive.

      I am glad that your daughter has family with her so that she is not alone, even if she is away from you.

      Like

  12. Sunny Girl says:

    Blue Day – several thiings come to mind. 19 years ago my mom was in a coma at Christmas and it was tough for all of us especially my dad. This year, I’m thinking of my brother and his kids and especially his grandkids. . My deal SIL passed this year and it will not be easy for them – she was so special and loved Christmas.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      I heard about a tradition in the UK that for the year after a significant family member’s death people aren’t expected to send cards, especially holiday cards. I don’t know if it was just my particular set of friends or a more general thing, but it made sense to me.

      In some ways I wish that we had a visual way to show when we are mourning a loss. It went out of fashion, but in some ways the customs can be healing.

      I know it’s a bit cliched, but I always think of angels at Christmas. Do you think of your mom and SIL when you think of angels at Christmas time?

      Like

  13. Penelope says:

    A really thoughtful piece, Ana.

    Like many others, I miss loved ones and would think about them at a Blue Christmas service.

    I miss my Dad so much, every day. I think that this feeling is more poignant at holiday times – again, as others have said – because they are a time for family, for togetherness, for celebration. And also, I think, because they are a time for inner and outer quietness. There is no 9-5 work; there are no external distractions to occupy your thoughts like there are on regular days.

    Christmas is also bittersweet for me now, I think, because it was always my favourite time of the year as a child; just the best and the happiest. I think that, as a young-ish adult coming to terms with the thought of mortality, Christmas is when I feel and acknowledge the loss of my own childhood innocence the most. I miss my loved ones and I miss the promise and wonder of a bright, perfect world where there is no loss.

    Like

  14. jadecaryade says:

    Very sweet and thougtful post, darling. I’d be thinking about my mom, whom I lost 4 years ago. She’s always with me, of course, but she particularly loved this time of year, especially as it involved her two grandsons. Before we did some much needed renovations on our house, we’d tent the backyard every year to accomodate the crowd. She and her best friend, also gone, would push back from thier plates and start singing. It would get us all started, and soon the whole tent would be filled with christmas songs. It was magical, and so was she.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Oh how fun. I love the singing and the crowding and the memories. What an amazing mom to remember. Do you have any little ways that you keep her memory alive now for Christmas?

      Like

      • jadecaryade says:

        My husband lost his father quite a while back (14 years ago) but my MIL is still alive. She has so many stories about her late husband, and we sit around the table and just rag on him! We’ve added my mom to the group now, and her best friend, who was like a second mom to me. We don’t just keep this to Christmas but we do it throughout the year, when we get together. It’s such a laugh fest because, lets face it, everyone has their idiosyncrasies, and as I tell my boys, once daddy and I are gone, they can tell all the stories they want and feel free to laugh their asses off. The laughter is what keeps my mom, and others, alive in our hearts.

        Like

  15. Bas says:

    Everybody misses loved ones at the Christmas table. But none of those left us on or around Christmas.
    For 35 years we have had a “Close Family only” Christmas dinner at our house.
    Dutch houses are not built for dinner parties with the whole family.
    We started in 1977 with 7 persons, and although 3 of those 7 are no longer with us. The number of attendants this year will be 8.
    Our children took the seats of our parents. Next year there will be a grandchild.
    That’s how it’s supposed to be.
    It is grieve and joy at the same time.

    Like

  16. joeyred51 says:

    I would think of my grandfather. He was witty and kind and enjoyed making the Christmas holiday special for all of us. I would also think of my grandmother who was loved by everyone.

    Like

  17. Sassy Chassy says:

    I always think about my Grandma this time of year. She was the epitome of Christmas joy and we all miss her so incredibly much. This past August my Dad was diagnosed with multiple myeloma which is a cancer of the blood. It’s super aggressive and there is no cure. He will be undergoing a stem cell transplant right after Christmas. We will have no idea how he will be feeling tot Christmas. My Dad was ss healthy as you can possibly be before this and the life of the party. He is also the cool Grandpa that the kids adore, is always up for anything, & truly get them. It’s going to be hard this year knowing what’s coming after. We just try not to think about it and celebrate as much as we can.

    Like

    • Ana says:

      Oh wow. What a huge change with little warning. I can just image the shock. I am glad that you will get to have a Christmas together so that you can remember it later.

      There is a saying I love, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile that it happened.” I try to tell myself that whenever I miss great times from the past. I hope that you will be able to smile and keep smiling. 🙂

      Like

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