The highlight of winter is Christmas, isn’t it? The anticipation of a beautiful holiday, great movies, Christmas lights, Christmas parties and food, Christmas music—everything helps us dream of a white Christmas and make the steadily dipping temperatures bearable.
Even Thanksgiving in its turkey-laden glory makes us smile and ignore November’s shorter days, longer nights, naked trees, and frosty ground.
Leaves fall, temperatures fall, the sun gets lower in the sky, and we hope for Christmas.
And then it’s over. Just like that, it’s over. It’s followed all-too quickly by a somewhat disappointing New Year’s, and we’re back to the grind. With no holiday to look forward to, January often feels like the longest month of year. Cold day after cold day slaps us with wind, and winter seems endless.
Christmas is over, and we’re sad.
So what do we do to overcome the post-Christmas blues? Do we go out to a Broadway show since they’re cheaper in January? Or do we stay in and embrace Danish Hygge? Maybe we do both, just to find out what works. Or maybe we escape to a tropical island for a few days.
While my blues may be momentarily relieved by a show, a night by the fire, or a beach, I’d prefer a habit that lends more permanence to the relief.
I’d like to change the way I think.
No, I’m not talking about teaching myself to love winter—it’s okay that I’m not thrilled when I need to wears layers and layers. I was ruined for winter when I lived in a tropical country for two years!
I’d like to teach myself to look forward in the midst of January sadness. I handle winter well while looking forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, so why not figure out how to look forward in January, too? We are fully in the present when we like the present, but when the present is less appealing, remembering that this season (whether physical or metaphorical) is temporary is a helpful habit.
When faced with post-Christmas blues, I remind myself that the cold will soon yield to warmth, that more Christmases are to come, that sometimes the closeness I long for at Christmas actually happens at unexpected other times in the year.
Now, this isn’t some pie-in-the-sky-ignore-all-sadness-and-bad. No, it’s actually an acceptance of the sadness and bad, but balancing it with the reality of the happiness and good, too.
I can’t put on my bikini on January 3rd, and somehow the cold all goes away. I still dress for the season I’m in, all the while remembering this is not all there is.
I can do it in the cold leading up to Christmas, so I can do it in the cold January that leads to spring, too. I can look forward to the good.
Whenever I go to funerals with my husband, rather than saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” he says words many of us only use at Easter, “Christ is risen.” In the midst of horrible loss, he reminds mourners of the bigger truth, that Christ is risen, this world is not all there is, and we will rise, too. This doesn’t lift them out of their present loss, but rather serves as a reminder that this loss is temporary, only for this world.
Isn’t that the hope of Christianity?
We can look forward to the culmination of all things, when in the words of Samwise Gamgee, everything sad will come untrue.
And we can overcome our post-Christmas blues.