What is Christmas as an adult?

When I was a kid, it was a time of excitement and wonder. I loved decorating the tree and putting up lights. And of course, I loved the presents waiting in their glossy paper and getting to play with cousins I didn’t see very often.

As I got older and waking up the middle of the night was less common and the desire for gifts was less, it was still a good time. It meant a long break from school in high school. And in college, it meant an even longer vacation.

It was a good time to go home and unwind. It got me out of the daily grind. It was a nice change.

Now, as an adult, Christmas is a Friday. Christmas is an extra day off during a work week. It’s a time to sit with family and eat. It’s a time where traveling to see family more than a few hours away is untenable.

It’s a stressful time where traffic and limited time off has to be weighed against wanting to spend time with family.

Feelings are hurt. Money is spent. Christmas went from a time of wondrous merriment, to a balancing act.

I didn’t have much Christmas spirit this year. It was hard to muster much of it. I changed jobs right before the holiday so I had no paid time off. It wasn’t a long enough break to travel and even then, money would be tight and I keep finding myself asking, at what cost?

Christmas as an adult is summed up by John Siracusa on a recent Reconcilable Differences episode (48:35 into the show) where he said:

“You’re ruining your own holiday to fulfill the obligations put upon you by your family to do something you don’t want to do.”

I got to thinking about this because we don’t have kids so there’s no Santa Claus to talk about and no pile of presents to crowd under the Christmas tree. This year my wife and I didn’t buy each other anything. If there’s something we want, we buy it. There’s nothing that I wanted enough to ask specifically for it. And my poor wife’s birthday falls the week before Christmas so I got her a nice present for her birthday.

So Christmas morning didn’t hold any special meaning other than time off from work. It was nice to have a few days in a row away from work. And not to fill those days with fighting traffic, getting folded into an airplane and generally dealing with America’s travel infrastructure.

For people with children, Christmas is a very different thing. For me, the highlight of my Christmas time was driving around Richmond and looking at Christmas lights with my wife. It was a wonderful evening spent seeing about 30 houses from the Tacky Light Tour.

What would I like to do for Christmas?

A quiet day. Spent with my wife. At home. Quietly enjoying each others company. And eating. Pantsless.

Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.
Merry Christmas, you filthy animal