Thanksgiving has passed, but Christmas is in the air. It’s magical, isn’t it? It’s something, that’s for sure. You’ve heard of “The 12 Days of Christmas”, but I have put together a list called “The 12 Hates of Christmas.” It’s not a “resolution” kind of list. It’s a “Where did all the fun that I was supposed to have go this holiday?” kind of list. It’s an “I have bunch of regrets mixed in with my fond memories and I don’t like it” kind of list.
I have decided to wade through all the junk to bring out what is (or should be) most important. I hope it might add a little levity, bring some focus to this busy time, and help improve your holiday celebration, whatever it may be—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Ramadan, or Festivus (for the rest of us). Feel free to steal these and… spread the holiday hate to help others, or something like that. Sometimes it helps to have a sense of humor.
Hate #1: Decorating. I hate all the time it takes to decorate. Now, let me be clear, I love decorations and things being decorated. I just don’t like doing it! The untangling of lights, finding hooks for each ornament, finding the one bulb in a string of 50 that is keeping the whole string dead, and pretending like I am having so much fun for the kids sake is all very frustrating. A few years ago, we even resorted to having an artificial Christmas tree. As much as I hate it and vowed to NEVER sink to such a low, it’s so much better (and easier)— less mess, less money, no maintenance. I even keep it stored fully assembled in the basement. So I literally have the tree up in ten minutes when it’s time to get started. We also light a pine tree scented candle so our visitors think it’s real. But the kids like all the hoopla and that’s enough for me. Plus, I do love putting the train around the tree. That’s pretty awesome.
Hate #2: Shopping. UGH! I’m not a good gift giver or receiver. My wife, Lisa, shops for the kids. That is VERY good! I love that. Sure, we talk about what to get, but she does all the work in the end. The problem is, I always wait until the last minute when buying her gifts. Yes, I know it’s a man-cliché. It’s just how it happens. Thank God stores are open Christmas Eve! There is nothing worse than going to the mall during the holidays, but you just can’t get everything on-line. Some people get recharged emotionally shopping at the mall (like my wife). I just get suicidal. I’m also not good at telling others what I want. That doesn’t make it easy for others to shop for me. It’s not that I don’t want stuff. I just hate telling people what I want. Plus, everything has a dollar value to me nowadays, so I think about how much we’re spending constantly. Besides, I like life simple. I like relaxing, going to the movies, and eating. It’s not like you can put a rib-eye in the stocking, right? Not to mention, the things I really want are just too much money (a remodeled house, new truck, 1,000,000 copies of my book to be sold etc., are some things that come to mind). I hope Santa is reading this list and checking it twice…
Hate #3: Fighting. Don’t lie, we all have several snippy moments during the most wonderful time of the year. And yes, some of us even argue. We might even yell at the kids a little. It might sound strange, but it’s hard, stressful, and tense trying to have so much fun and make something so special. We want it all to be so perfect and that can set us off quite easily. Tempers flare during what is supposed to be a very satisfying and relaxing season with the family. You may also be tense from the traveling to visit family. Not to mention, that means you’re trapped there. That equals even more fights! Now throw all the other things on my list in and you have a recipe for disaster. But at least you get it off your chest, right?
Hate #4: Fat. Not you, but me. We all gain a little around the holidays, and it’s usually not character, patience, or anything useful like that. It’s weight. Christmas=food. Overeat? That doesn’t mean anything to me this time of year. Full? What does that have to do with anything? Eating is a state-of-mind for me. You have to be disciplined and really apply yourself if you want to do it properly. Portion and rationing are the smart thing to do, but since when is smart fun when it comes to food? Turkey, gravy, smashed potatoes, honey-baked ham, rib roast, sweet potatoes, apple pie. Yes please! Anyone hungry yet? I’ll have seconds, too. Okay, you talked me into it, and thirds.
Hate #5: Montezuma’s Revenge. If you don’t get that reference, it doesn’t mean you won’t get it from eating so much food. Tums and Pepto-Bismal will help. That’s right, I said it. Fried this and saturated that starts to catch up. For me, there’s no way around it because I refuse to eat responsibly during the holidays. That just wouldn’t be any fun now would it! As a matter of fact, I am a handyman by day and I’ve even put Tums in the first-aid kit for just such an emergency. So get in, sit down, and hold on. Christmas might take you for a little ride.
Hate #6: Christmas Blues. I hate the fact that the holiday mood doesn’t set in until it is all nearly over. I think if I could take off work from Halloween until News Years Day, it might get me in the right holiday mindset sooner and keep me there longer. Sounds good, right? You’d have time to get the stressful ‘to-do’ items done, relax, and know there is even enough time to recoup. But mostly we’re working and shopping right until the last minute. So the holiday feeling doesn’t set in because we haven’t been still or relaxed enough to ‘detox’ from the regular routine of life. I usually hit the ground running during Christmas. What’s worse is, once I realize the relaxing euphoria has finally set in, it is followed by the thought that the holiday season will be over in a day or two.
Hate #7: UnChristmasing. This, along with the Christmas blues, creates a real downer. There is the lingering of returning gifts that you don’t like, don’t fit, or broke. And even worse than all that is the un-decorating. NOOOOO! Taking down the Christmas tree stinks. If getting the lights out and working is bad, putting them (and all the other decorations) back in their boxes neatly is even worse. Carrying all the storage bins up from the basement and then back down again is a real treat too (detecting any sarcasm?). It’s like a holiday hangover, but there’s no aspirin for it. I start to remember that the good things about Christmas are a year away. Sigh.
Hate #8: Political Correctness. This is a relatively recent development. Over the past five or so years there have been some ridiculous things happening surrounding Christmas. From public school teachers being threatened with formal reprimands for saying Merry Christmas, to Christmas trees being removed from public grounds because they have a religious meaning. And if the trees aren’t removed, they are simply called ‘Holiday Trees’ in order to be more inclusive. The funny thing is, Christmas trees are actually a pagan practice that Christians adopted. So I don’t get it. That’s the problem with political correctness gone wild. You forget who you are and what it’s really about. So Happy Ramanahanakwanzmas? NO! Merry Christmas! I wish you all the best. But that’s how I role around here.
Hate #9: Family. I don’t know about you (I probably shouldn’t say this, but why stop now?), but my family drives me nuts. I am not referring to my wife and kids here—it’s the extended family. My wife and I even try to plot a way to get away for every holiday, especially Christmas. That way a special time of year—one you look forward to all year long and only happens once—doesn’t get ruined. Like the time visiting relatives kept feeding our kids snacks behind our backs. And then, just as we all had our plates loaded with holiday food and were about to take that first succulent bite, my son threw up all over the table. The whole “we’re family and we love each other and we forgive each other” sentiment just doesn’t exist in my family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family. I just don’t like them every once-in-a-while. It’s not them, it’s me—right?
Hate #10: Spenders Remorse. In order for it to feel like Christmas, I spend freely. We set a budget. Did you know that budgeting isn’t keeping a record of what you spend? It’s actually deciding how much you’re going to spend ahead of time and stopping when you hit the limit. I’m still trying to figure that out. In truth, in our everyday lives we have to be budget conscious. I hate the feeling like I am spending too much, but, at the same time, I ignore it during Christmas so it will still feel like a holiday. This only compounds the issue. We always go over budget. Not sure how not to do that. Plus, it’s impossible to run out of money when you have credit cards. Those things are downright dangerous!
Hate #11: Santa. I don’t hate Santa. I hate the issue of Santa within our family. Why? Because most of us who’ve grown-up in America were told there’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, God, and Jesus. We teach kids they’re all real, but they’re not all real. Eventually our kids will be okay with Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy being cute little white lies, while accepting Jesus and God as completely legit—right? Not really. At least I don’t think so, and it’s something I talk about in my book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. This is something that my wife and I have spoken about in depth. Will we tell our kids about Santa? Will Santa be the one who gives them their gifts? It’s funny how many atheists (and some agnostics) have railed me over the years for teaching my kids about Jesus and God—something that can’t be proven. You know, they want to wait to introduce ideas of faith and religion when their kids are old enough to decide for themselves. Sounds so intellectual and enlightened, right? But the individuals I’ve talked to have no problem telling their kids about a fat guy sliding down the chimney with a sack full of gifts and eating the cookies and milk, his elves, flying reindeer, and somehow doing this at midnight in every home all around the world. What’s with that? Do I have a problem with the story of Santa? Not at all. We’re not Grinches. We tell our kids the story of the real Saint Nicholas. But we’ve decided that’s where it stops. Sorry Santa. No cookies for you at the Berggren home. You can read Santa vs. Jesus on my site for more on this.
Hate #12: Forgetting. I don’t know what it is all about for you, but for me, Christmas is supposed to be about the birth of Jesus—you know, the most influential person in history. I hate that all of the other stuff on my list tends to get in the way of what these times are supposed to be about. I have to tell myself more than once during the holidays, “It’s all about Jesus, stupid!” I don’t want to forget to remember what my priorities are supposed to be. What’s interesting is that the word holiday actually comes from the term ‘holy day’. The day was supposed to be set apart to relax, reflect, and refocus on God. Whatever you believe in, I hope you’ll add value to yourself and those around you by relaxing, spending time with loved ones, and celebrating. That’s the #1 thing, after all. It’s what the holidays are supposed to be all about. It’s what Christmas is supposed to be about.
Jason T. Berggren is the author of the controversial book 10 Things I Hate About Christianity: Working Through the Frustrations of Faith. He has attracted national attention with his unique and honest look at Christianity. He has been featured in the debut of ABC’s show “Beliefs“, is a frequent radio guest, and continues to receive positive reviews of his book.
Beyond the book, Berggren is a former pastor, founder of one the most influential bands (Strongarm) in the heavy Christian music scene, and is married with three children. Berggren and his family relocated to Atlanta three years ago where they attend North Point Community Church. To contact him, get more info about his book, or link to his blog visit 10thingsihate.com.