Yes, it is a joyous time of year, filled with celebration and good will. But it also makes all of us a little crazy in one way or another. If you haven’t suffered from any of these Christmas-specific maladies, ailments or disorders, I’m sure you can think of someone you know who has. A malady is a state in which you are unable to function normally and without pain. And there are many different kinds and degrees of pain.
1. Malady of the Christmas Spirit, or melancholy, discontent. Let’s get this one out of the way first. For some people this seems to be a chronic illness for which there is no cure. Something bad happened in Uncle Harry’s life, it coincided with the holidays, and forever after, this is what sets the mood for his bah-humbug depressing attitude. Even if his life is now one of comfort and joy, he choses to dwell on some former disappointment or tragedy as if it robbed him forever of his Christmas spirit. Get the hell over yourself Uncle Harry. Nobody wants to deal with your witches brew of emotional explosives, not knowing if this year it will be the egg nog or the stuffing that sets you off. We’re here for a good time. Set aside your sad memories and enjoy these moments with the rest of us. Let this be the happy time you remember.
2. Decubomania, or The Christmas Collapse. I love it that there is a word (decubomania) for the urgent desire to lie down. This malady can be particularly debilitating when it strikes in the middle of a busy shopping mall or halfway through dinner. It is an abrupt failure of function caused by complete physical exhaustion. Symptoms include saying things like ”my legs won’t move”, or “this fork is too heavy”, followed by glazed over eyeballs and difficulty responding to outside stimuli. Often the condition is caused by an unreasonable insistence by the individual affected that others submit exactly to his or her way of doing things, or an unreasonable reluctance to allow others to do things for them in his or her own way. Give up some of the control before it kills you. Who cares if the tree looks like monkeys decorated it or there’s half a roll of tape holding wrinkled wrapping paper together on Aunt Sally’s gift. You’re not perfect, and this does not have to be the perfect Christmas. Sit down and put your feet up. And don’t apologize for it either.
3. Obsessive Compulsive Christmas Disorder This is the compulsion to make lists and schedules while being rigid and inflexible about the things that have to get done and setting written in stone deadlines for their completion. Why do we insist on setting ourselves up for such massive guilt trips? We didn’t get all those home-made gifts finished and there wasn’t time to make short bread and the mail order personalized perfect whatsit failed to arrive before the 25th. Oh well. Don’t try to fight the list making compulsion because, believe me since I speak from personal experience, it’s one of the hardest habits to kick. But do add a list of reasons why task completion may not occur. Then when something goes wrong (and something always goes wrong) you can point to your list of random reasons and say, See? I KNEW we could have a fluke monsoon here this month and that there was quite possibly going to be a fresh cranberry militant workers strike in South America. Talk about your Acts of God. I am SO not responsible for any of this.
4. Christmas Hoarder Disorder This condition strikes those of us who are not capable of disposing of worn out or insignificant things even when they no longer have any sentimental meaning or value. Perhaps they never did. Possibly we had parents who saved things for a rainy day, or “just in case”, or simply felt bad about throwing something perfectly good in the garbage and we feel powerless to break with this tradition. And so we hang on to it, even though it’s the sixth or seventh brightly colored plaid flannel shirt in a size too small from our loving mother who keeps having the same gift idea year after year. And then there’s that construction paper wreath with the glued on crap that keeps falling off because of all those crazy colored finger paint ridges and bumps and sparkles and sequins and ratty ribbon. Come on. Even the child who made that and is now a grown up is embarrassed that it’s still kicking around. Throw it out. Or put it on your Christmas Yule Log and enjoy the flames.
5. Doromania An unusual urge or preoccupation with the giving of gifts. Thank you Wordnik for putting a label on this epidemic which sweeps across our continent every December. We ask people what they want. We force them to make a list! We end up either giving too many things to one person, or one small thing to way too many people. Do you really feel obligated to purchase a box of chocolates for your paper boys grandmother? Or tuck a little something in an envelope for your favourite clerk at the coffee shop? STOP THAT! It only makes people feel bad that they don’t have anything to give back to you or that they didn’t think of it first. And please try to resist the urge to buy one more little thing to go with the gift that you believe isn’t quite enough. Because you will end up getting two little extra things. And in your misguided attempt to make things even for everyone involved, you will eventually need a calculator and a balance sheet and (God help us) maybe even another LIST to keep it all straight. Most people will not be keeping notes on what you gave to everyone or trying to figure out how much more you love the person on whom you spent that extra five bucks. It is a lovely thing to want to give. It is a disorder to give too much and not know when to stop.
6. Gluttonous Holiday Overindulgence. Everything looks and smells so good. There are treats and delicacies and goodies that you won’t see again for another whole year. So you sample and indulge and taste and savor. You appreciate, you enjoy, you close your eyes and stuff your face with one or two or several helpings of everything you’re offered. Just remember, there is a fine line between ‘luxuriate’ and ‘wallow’. All that delicious food and drink can send you staggering off the edge of reason and you could end up suffering for your pleasure, with severe indigestion, intense heartburn, or a killer Christmas hangover. Moderation my friend – spread the fun out a little more thinly and make it last longer. There will be turkey left for many tomorrows. You all know I’m right about that one.
Nobody wants to be sick for Christmas. Or sick OF Christmas or sick because of the self-induced stress related to it. So slow down, have some fun, be grateful for your family and your friends. Try to avoid the Christmas Maladies if you can. And if you can’t, don’t worry. In January they’ll all be miraculously cleared up and gone for another season.