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How To Have The Perfect Christmas (But Actually)

By Anne T. Donahue

Christmas is an entity unto itself. Whole movies are dedicated to it. Adults sing songs about reindeer and sentient snowmen. We, human grown-ups, decorate our houses and wear sparkles and eat puffed pastries for dinner if we haven’t filled up on entire shrimp rings. (It should be noted that I eat shrimp rings for dinner regardless of season, and I can’t recommend it enough.)

It’s supposed to be fun. Perfect! Magical. Whatever feelings we get from repeated screenings of A Christmas Prince. And for a very long time (read: my whole life) I believed there wasn’t room for errors or mistakes or imperfections, and that if for one moment I wasn’t basking in Christmas cheer, the holiday for the year would be a write-off and I’d have to work harder the next to try and restore my faith in the holidays.

And that sounds ridiculous because it is. First, because the “Christmas season” starts on November 1 (basically), and to expect to have two-ish months of no bad days is delusional and weird. Second, because life is, as we are well aware, a total mess. And just because I’ve strung some garland up doesn’t mean I don’t get to have problems or will stop feeling sad or won’t have to endure the idiocy of somebody whose orbit I’m stuck in. Christmas takes place in the same realm we all live in, day to day. So this year, instead of committing to feeling any sort of way (I’ve vowed to have almost every type of Christmas under the sun, the best being “emo as hell as I bailed on my family to roam around my subdivision drinking beer with some guys I knew” when I was in high school), I’m going to relieve myself of the pressure and announce that this year: who cares?

Not in a defeatist way. I know you care. And I know, deep down, that I care, because I can’t imagine how big a buzzkill it would be to waltz into my Aunt’s house on Christmas and be all, “Nothing matters!” (I would feel terrible and truthfully, I would deserve to.) But damn it, Christmas will never be perfect. The holidays will never be perfect. Nothing masterminded by humans can be perfect because we’re all just trying our best, and often that version of best means buying ready-made cookies from the grocery store to serve with dessert because I can’t be bothered to bake this year (and also my body hurts from the car accident I was in, but I digress). See: not perfect, and very flawed. It is bananas to think that anything will make a holiday amazing simply because we’ve bought the things and are doing what we’re supposed to do. Not when the best memories are defined by the messiness of merely trying to function, anyway.

Which I say with love and excitement and even optimism. I’m looking forward to what family and friends time look like without me micromanaging the way I feel. I’m psyched to exist amongst the people I like without internally screaming about who’s eating enough of what, and is that okay, and do I look fine, and should we take a photo, and, and, and. I’m relieved that I’m sending cards only to the pals I get cards from (I mean, I’m not an animal), and the pals I’m going to see in person, and that no one will be sitting at home cursing my name for notgetting cards because nobody has time to do that, are you fucking kidding me. I’m content with being tired and accepting my tiredness, and also the fact that I’m moving a bit like a sloth at the moment because that’s how it works after you get in a car crash. I am ready simply to have a Christmas. Not merry or sad, just “a.” And I’m readier still to abandon the pressure we put on ourselves because it sets me up to fail. I’m content to be season-centrically average. And the kindest wish I can make is that I hope all of you have the same.

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