I'm gonna be really honest here- I think that for a lot of us, Christmas is, more of then than not, somewhere between boring and depressing.
My own personal Christmas began with my mom coming to my house to see how flippin' adorable Jasper was with his new toy. She literally walked in, and within 30 seconds knocked my Christmas tree over. My poor little tree is only about two and a half feet tall, give or take, and I have it standing atop what used to be my fish tank stand. So, one moment Mom is walking into my living room, the next I am covering my eyes with my hands as everything goes crashing to the floor. Remarkably, none of my ornaments broke, but it kind of set the tone for the morning. Yikes!
Just in case you are a crazy cat lady, too, here's Jasper with his new toy! (I filmed Toey with his, too, but I have been uber lazy about all things video this week!) It's one of the catnip toys I linked to in my holiday gift guide.
My mom was totally broke this year, so she didn't get me anything, but my oldest sister did send me a necklace and a surprisingly cute little box for storing random crap.
It can be a little disheartening to get on Facebook on Christmas afternoon and see all of the "ZOMG, I got a pony and a spaceship and a new 100000 inch TV! YAY CHRISTMAS!" types of posts, but at least this was better than 2 years ago when my family basically forgot I existed, and I was 1000 miles away from all my friends, and thus ended up with zero presents.
It's easy to say "Oh, if I were back home in Orlando already, Christmas would be super amazeballs and I'd be so happy!", but even that's not true. Yes, we have a ton of seriously awesome Christmas-related things at Disney, but they're all so flippin' crowded by mid-December that you couldn't pay me to go near them. (Except that they DO pay me to go near them, 'cause that's my job and stuff.) My first year, when I worked at Magic Kingdom, I think I worked 16 hours on Christmas Eve, 15 on Christmas itself, and 14 the day after. Those are always crazy stressful days, dealing with guests who don't understand why it's crowded ("We thought nobody would come on Christmas!") or who don't understand the concept that the parade was filmed a month ago ("Where's Ryan Seacrest??") or who just generally aren't feeling so holly jolly. But at least you have your work family to lean on, that little band of people who understand. Also: holiday pay does not suck.
Whoa. I think I just admitted that I would rather be working a 16 hour day in a theme park crammed with 100,000 guests than be where I am now. Whoa. I think I need to process that. Huh.
My need for therapy aside, I feel like no matter where you are and what your Christmas is like, there are a lot of us who end up feeling depressed or lonely or let down. The thing is, we (both our individual selves and society as a whole) build Christmas up SO MUCH that it's pretty tough for it to live up to the expectations. We start hearing Christmas music before Halloween even happens, our TVs are flooded with advertisements about how to have the best Christmas EVER, our Pinterest boards are overcome with crafty ideas for turning our homes into a winter wonderland. And so it's easy to feel like maybe we've failed a little, if we don't bake the perfect gingerbread men, or buy the perfect present for everyone we know, or send out the cutest Christmas cards EVER, or perhaps even if we can't find a freaking santa hat for our kitten, despite checking three pet stores. (ahem.)
And THEN, we start talking about next year. "Next year," we sigh as we put the ornaments back into the storage box, "I'm going to bake a whole gingerbread house from scratch. And I'm going to make an amazing Christmas playlist so I have the perfect music all month long. And I'm going to get a really cute picture of my kitten in that Santa hat to use as my Christmas cards. And I'm going to find an ironically cute-ugly holiday sweater with reindeer and stuff on it. And I'm going to make the most amazing meal, and wrap all of my presents with a sprig of fresh holly, and hand-embroider everyone's stockings, and and and!"
And so it starts again. We set the expectation bar absurdly high for next Christmas, and when we don't meet it, we feel like we're missing out on something.
Pro Tip: Most Christmases don't look like this, except maybe on ABC Family.
But here's the thing: It's okay if the most festive thing you did this year was watch the Backstreet Boys sing and dance to something festive during the televised Disney Christmas parade. (It is possibly less ok if you spent half of that parade sobbing about missing home, but that's just me.) It's ok if your tree is not done in a perfectly designed color scheme, or if the most fun you had was buying presents for your cats. It's OKAY if you spent the day in ratty sweatpants and no bra. It's all okay. And it is equally okay if you're spending New Year's Eve tonight with a glass of wine and only a cat to kiss, or even if you're going to bed early with a book, or if you're getting paid $7.50 an hour to be at work as the ball drops.
I think we need to drop the crazy expectations. Having a perfect Christmas doesn't mean your life is perfect, and having an amazing New Year's Eve doesn't necessarily mean that the year ahead will be amazing. Maybe next year, you really WILL have the perfect holiday playlist, or prepare the perfect meal, or finally be under the mistletoe with that person you've been swooning over for years. And maybe you won't. But either way, it's okay.