A Humanist Grinch with a Side of Heart


I walked into our local craft store yesterday to purchase some milk paint and was immediately slapped in the face with Christmas decorations, trees, tinsel, tiny Santa’s, and cheery little elves.  The smell of holly, cranberry, and pine was overwhelming to the point of nearly bolting back out the door.  After trudging through what seemed liked never-ending aisles of holiday decor, I finally found the paint aisle, grabbed my choices, and ran for the check out line!  Save me from this holiday music, it’s both joyful and triumphant, my thoughts as the Grinch movie played in my imagination!  I raced back home to my own version of Mt. Crumpet, my sweet little cottage and the zero tolerance of anything Christmas before December 20th, if any at all.

When did I come to hate Christmas so much?  When did it go from being magical and exciting to the holiday I loathe more than any other?  And am I really a Grinch?  Because this Grinch doesn’t do the happy ending of the movie (I typically stop watching once he’s pilfered all the goodies).  Watching his heart grow and burst is NOT my favorite part at all!  You think I’m kidding but I really do stop watching at that part, it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

Growing up we always came downstairs Christmas morning to presents under the tree from Santa.  Of course, my parents would make us eat breakfast first, followed by my father’s reading of the Christmas Story  and perhaps he prayed (I can’t remember) and then we were allowed to tear into our presents.  For me it was torture to have to sit through that while presents were just waiting to be ripped open.  But still, that wasn’t what turned me sour on the holidays.  Even after I learned that Santa wasn’t real, I wasn’t a Grinch.

When my son was little it was fun to go shopping with his dad and buy presents.  It was thrilling to hide them, wrap them, and trudge them out on Christmas Eve just to see his little face light up with joy at the boxes under the tree.  Watching my son rip the paper off a toy he had wanted and hearing his shouts of joy was the best!  Still not a Grinch.

I suppose it all happened gradually during the divorce and re-marriage.  All of a sudden those Christmas morning memories were gone.  (It was my decision to leave so no sympathy for me is allowed)  I celebrated Christmas Eve with my side of the family and with my son and maybe my husband’s daughters, then typically on Christmas Day we celebrated with my husband’s side of the family.   During this time, my tolerance for religion was gone and I was searching high and low for anything to make sense.  And then more “things” happened and Christmas became just me and my husband.  Which was good, we would add a splash of Jack Daniels to our coffee, give each other a small present or two, and enjoy the day together, sometimes taking hikes into the mountain in the snow.  Still not a Grinch though, but definitely losing some of the magic and excitement.

After a few years I started working in a local homeless shelter and around this time began to notice that as soon as Halloween was over, BAM!  Christmas music, Christmas ads, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, Christmas was in my face!  Gifts upon gifts upon gifts were given along with grumbles about it not being exactly the right thing and therefore returns were imminent.   I saw local religions organizations pull together resources for our homeless population and purchase tons of gifts for them, only to set them up on a stage in front of the gift-givers to open the gifts.  As if they were on display.  Seeing their embarrassed faces and forced reactions, my heart got smaller.  I’m guessing here is where the Grinch-iness began to take hold.

Along with the familial dynamics, the obsessive gift searches, the demands on dates and times, the cost, the whole damn stress of it, I officially turned into the Grinch.  I tried to stop it.  I tried hand-made presents.  Nope.  I tried meaningful gifts.  Nope.  I tried to enjoy the Christmas songs.  Nope.  It seemed hopeless.  And then, I watched an episode of The Jerry Seinfeld Show and was reminded of Festivus!  Yes!  This would be our new holiday!  My husband and I would pick a date after Christmas (when our kids and grandkids were not busy) and we would celebrate Festivus.

By this time I had embraced Humanism and despite my Grinch-iness I could take the dreaded Christmas holiday and make it something that was enjoyable, that was meaningful, and that could be a new tradition.  (Do you hear the sound of my heart getting bigger?)

And so, this year will be our second Festivus.  This year, we’re choosing to go gift-less and I’m searching for something we can do as a family that will bring us all joy.  (Well damn, there goes my heart……a little bigger…..)  Guess I’m going to have to watch the entire movie now.

No matter how you celebrate the holiday season, I hope that you can find ways to make it meaningful and happy.

Until next time,





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