Is this really the most wonderful time of the year?
In some ways, yes.
Two of my favourite food groups, chocolate and gravy, feature prominently during the Christmas season. Some of the most gorgeous sacred music ever written finds its way onto radio station playlists and my DVD player in November and December - along with Bing Crosby with his soothing brand of seasonal crooning.
And speaking of Bing, the coziest old movies and the best animated specials can be found on television stations 24/7 as the clock ticks down to Christmas day. And those you can't find on TV are almost always available on DVD to watch over and over again.
And cards - sparkly, lovely, mushy, happy cards - find their way into my mailbox almost every day, giving bills and junk mail a run for their money.
Christmas is a greeting card whore's dream come true.
And there really is a gentleness about the season. People, when they're not shopping or trying to find a parking spot, just seem nicer somehow.
So yes, it's a lovely time of year. And I love it.
But I think it's important not to over-glorify Christmas. Not because the other holidays will get jealous, but because it puts entirely too much pressure on everyone to actually feel as happy as we might be pretending to look; as happy as the songs and stories and televisions specials tell us we should be.
Sometimes happy isn't always there. But because Mariah Carey is shrieking at me about a silent night over the sound system at the mall, I feel like the world expects me to be happy, calm, and bright. Right now, dammit.
Like I used to be, back when I didn't know that babies died and fathers got sick.
It's not realistic to be happy all the time. And it's even less realistic at Christmas, where there's additional pressure to be the Norman Rockwellian picture of festive bliss - no matter what's going on in the rest of your life, it seems.
Divorced people, sick people, abused people, grieving people, depressed people, lonely people - they're feeling additional pressure to be festive and happy when circumstances in their lives make just regular old happy difficult some days. Maybe most days.
Spring is a wonderful time of year. Buds, blooms, balmy weather and an end to snow boots and winter tires makes it a perfectly lovely season. Summer, although I despise the heat, is nice simply because there's no chance of snow and a good chance of a cottage vacation. Fall - also known as pie season around here - is a delight, with crisp air, cozy sweaters, changing leaves and Thanksgiving.
All the seasons are nice.
It's just good to remember that when the joy of Christmas seems a little hard to find. Or when you think the amount of joy you have isn't enough.
One of my sweetest Christmas memories is sitting alone in bed, sick as a dog, eating canned chicken noodle soup and listening to Boris Karloff tell me how the Grinch stole Christmas, on CD.
By all accounts, it was a miserable Christmas. I was too sick to stay and have dinner with my family, so I went home after opening presents and crawled into bed with some soup. It was the very first Christmas My Beloved and I were together, and he'd given me the CD on Christmas Eve.
I was sad - I'd made my mother cry when I told her I had to leave - and in addition to being devastated that I was missing Christmas dinner for the first time ever, I felt like death warmed over. But I also felt loved as I listened to the CD and ate my soup. And by the time my sister got home with a turkey sandwich and some leftover pie, I was feeling marginally better. And even more loved.
Even a little joy is more than enough, especially during times when experiencing just a little smidgen of merry is a hard-fought victory.
It's important to remember that. It makes even the smallest amount of Christmas happy, happy enough.