Yuletide soliloquy

I remember somewhere Nietzsche said holidays are paradoxical because they lack any of the modesty Christianity advocates for. Holidays are about exuberance and excesses – of joyfulness, of food, of laziness and whatnot. Yet, Christianity generally disapproves of excesses. I read this when I was about 15 years old and it really stuck in my head, probably because it was one of the few things I understood from whatever I read by Nietzsche at that terrible age. However, this passage disallowed me to fully enjoy any religious holiday ever since. No grudges held, Friedrich. I would have asked myself what is everyone so excited about sooner or later anyway. Am I missing something? What sort of fundamental flaw do I bear that keeps me from matching the joy of those around me, during these globally cherished treasures called holidays?

I didn’t want to be a Grinch, so in recent years, as part of my calculated journey away from misanthropy, I tried to force myself to enjoy them more, and to stop seeing them as displays of gluttony or as capitalist traps.

Initially, my approach was traditional. I learned about the essence of the holidays I was celebrating. I fasted before Christmas, I spent entire days decorating the house and preparing food, I went to the church a few times, attended mass on Easter every year. I even sobbed during Easter mass for some reason unknown to me.

Since I left home, holidays got better because there is a reunion element, albeit not as grand as in Hollywood films. Having a small family doesn’t help because I keep in touch with them anyway. I wish I had a big family, like Kevin’s in Home Alone, so I could get lost between all the brothers and sisters and step out of the spotlight and snuggle with all my siblings.

Now, I see holidays as a charade. We pretend we believe in something, whether it’s Santa Claus, or God, or that our parents are still in love, or that we are a happy family. And that isn’t as sad as it sounds, it’s a fairytale in itself, like the Anna Karenina principle – All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. And we keep on pretending, until the holiday spirit gets us and we no longer have to pretend. This might be the Christmas miracle everyone talks about.

To illustrate this, there are some studies proving that if you force yourself to physically smile, you actually release dopamine. [1] Similarly, you can trick yourself into thinking that you enjoy the holidays without actually enjoying them, just by acting as if you enjoy them.

So I will put on a silly jumper and I will spend hours in the kitchen getting the dessert just right and then I will not even eat it and I will pretend the shape of the star on the top of the tree is the most important thing in the world and I will give carol singers a 50 lei note and I will act surprised when I see my sister hid something for me under the tree tomorrow morning and I will watch a cheesy movie and I will rock around the Christmas tree and I will laugh at the same stories I heard a hundred times before and I will eat too much and I will remember what I said about gluttony and I will perish that thought and I will take everyone for a walk to see the lights in Moghioros and they might not be much but for us it will be like New York and the ice skating rink will be open and I will queue for hours to get my skates and when I get on the ice I will be faster than everyone else and I will tell everyone how much I love ice skating and I will get tipsy from just a glass of mulled wine and I will then suggest we go home and I will put on another movie and then we will eat again and mum will ask me if I want more sarmale and I will say yes I will yes.

(1) e.g. https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/smiling-can-trick-your-brain-happiness-boost-your-health-ncna822591

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