I don’t know who or what to ascribe it to–the league of department stores, perhaps; or Betty Crocker, Michael Bublé and his sonorous knack for tunes about snow and homecoming–but no matter where you find yourself come holiday season, you’re never far from a Christmas wonderland. From November onwards, everything seems to seduce you into peppermint and gingerbread. Starbucks abandons the pumpkin spice fervor in favor of hot chocolates and the bizarre eggnog latte. You drop twenties into red Salvation army buckets. It is the one time of year when mothers allowing their children to sit in the laps of grown men in red suits isn’t a questionable act of parenting. Sitcoms and dramas present miniature Christmas miracles. Jewelry commercials talk and talk about love as it stems from open-heart necklaces.
I am duly warmed by all of it.
But in fact, every year I find myself anticipating the glossy pre-Christmas tide more than anything else about the holiday. My Hindu family, all born and reared in South India, would erect a Walmart tree in our living room year after year and in the fashion of Christmas morning, presents sat beneath it. I opened them, loved them, then experienced a sinking feeling.
“What do we do now?” I would ask my mother.
She’d shrug. “I don’t know. Eat. People have dinners, don’t they? Don’t they do things like that?”
The post-holiday blues, however, is a widespread affectation. I hate to see house-lights being pulled off of shrubs and the goings-away of silver wreaths. Families disassemble; children return to their adult lives in different pockets of the world. The Starbucks menu drops the bizarre lattes; candy-canes appear weirdly out-of-place.
And, most curiously, what happens to all the romantic-love-talk as the holidays die down? Here’s a very lyrical Adrian Henri poem that addresses just that.
Adrian Henri’s Talking After Christmas Blues
Well I woke up this mornin’ it was Christmas Day
And the birds were singing the night away
I saw my stocking lying on the chair
Looked right to the bottom but you weren’t there
but no you.
So I went downstairs and the dinner was fine
There was pudding and turkey and lots of wine
And I pulled those crackers with a laughing face
Till I saw there was no one in your place
nuts and raisins
…. mashed potato
but no you.
Now it’s New Year and it’s Auld Lang Syne
And it’s 1 2 o’clock and I’m feeling fine
Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot?
I don’t know girl, but it hurts a lot
vodka dry Martini (stirred
but not shaken)
…. and 12 New Year resolutions
all of them about you.
So it’s all the best for the year ahead
As I stagger upstairs and into bed
Then I looked at the pillow by my side
…. I tell you baby I almost cried
…. and Winter
all of them without you.
The blues don’t always encroach upon the red-and-green, of course. But I interviewed some friends from New York City–both late teens and young twenty-somethings–because I find the city’s luminescence around the holidays to be the most heart-warming part of my season. I wondered, naturally, as to the post-holiday heartbreak.
From my friend studying operations-research at Columbia’s graduate school, “It’s the theorem of November and December. Unless you’ve been dating your significant other for a long time, you’ll break up.”
I asked him why he thought that was.
He sighed. “I dunno. It’s just the theorem.”
And from my friend Zoe Senise, “Well the worst part for me is when people I love go back to college…I’ve sort of understood by this point that wrapped presents are better than unwrapped presents regardless of the present.”