I have a t-shirt that has a picture of Charlie Brown on it. Next to the picture are the words “I’m just one big, freaking ray of sunshine, aren’t I?” For people who know me well, they know this is basically me summed up in a t-shirt. It’s not that I’m a pessimist (well, not any more, at least). I just see things differently. I try to look at a situation and all of its possible outcomes. Then I usually assume the worst possible outcome to happen, while hoping for the best. So when things don’t go as badly as I expect, I’m pleasantly surprised. And when things do go as badly as I expect, I’m not too disappointed. And trust me, I know this isn’t the best way to go about living and I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s something I’m working on fixing, don’t worry. But it’s worked so far.
Why do I bring this up? Well, what it boils down to is that, as much as I hate to admit it sometimes, I’m a lot like Charlie Brown. Most people see Charlie Brown as incredibly depressed and incredibly depressing person. Take Charlie Brown and Linus’s opening dialogue in A Charlie Brown Christmas, for instance. Charlie Brown begins to express his feelings (or lack thereof) to Linus, explaining that he thinks there’s something wrong with him because Christmas doesn’t make him feel happy. To which Linus responds, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right. Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” Like Linus, most people have found Charlie Brown incredibly depressing. I’ve never really thought that, though. Mostly because I identify with Charlie Brown a lot. I’m not saying the holidays make me depressed. Quite the contrary, actually. I thoroughly enjoy the holiday season and everything that comes with them. However, I share a similar thought process and skepticism that he has when it comes to the holiday season. Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to agree with what he says in A Charlie Brown Christmas upon not receiving any Christmas cards: “I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?” That’s not a statement I agree with. However, there are some things about the holidays that drive me crazy.
November all the way through February is full of depressing holidays. And Charlie Brown has had unfortunate encounters with all of them. For Thanksgiving, he was forced to throw a Thanksgiving feast for all of his friends after Peppermint Patty invited herself and two other people over. After going to all the effort of preparing what food he could for his friends as an elementary schooler, Peppermint Patty (who is the worst human being ever) thanks him by complaining that there was no turkey, mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie. We all know what happened for Christmas, as he was asked to direct a Christmas play and then was called a blockhead for his vision. On New Year’s Eve, after finally getting up the courage to invite the litte red-haired girl to a party, he fell asleep on the front porch reading War and Peace for school, and completely missed her while Linus kept her company and danced with her instead. And on Valentine’s Day, he brought a big briefcase to school, hoping to get plenty of valentines from his “friends,” but instead, all he received was a single candy heart that read “Forget it, kid.” With the experiences he’s had, his dreading the holidays is completely justified. I haven’t had the same experiences as Charlie Brown, but I have a similar mindset that he does when it comes to the holidays. Not because of anything I’ve experienced, but because of what I’ve seen happening around me.
Generally, I believe the four holidays I’ve provided Charlie Brown’s experiences for are thought about like this:
Thanksgiving: A time to give thanks (duh) and be grateful for what we have
Christmas: A time where the “spirit of giving” is prevalent, and people are generous and compassionate
New Year: A time of hopefulness, looking forward to the future and planning to make changes
Valentine’s Day: A day to spend time, be grateful for, and celebrate the people we love, whether it’s family, friends, or significant others
This is what they’re supposed to be, right? That’s what I thought at least. But what they’re supposed to be about and what I actually see are quite different…
Thanksgiving: A time to watch the parade, and be “thankful” until lunch. Then after you wake up from your afternoon nap, be super greedy and forget everything you’re thankful for.
Christmas: A time where it’s okay to take time out of your day to help people out until Santa goes back home.Then it’s back to looking out for #1.
New Year: A time to be super depressed and wish you had done things different this past year and that your life wasn’t so terrible. Better make some resolutions you’ll forget about in a week.
Valentine’s Day: If you’re in a relationship, flaunt it. If you’re not, cry all day.
Now, I’m sure I just offended some people. That’s partly the point. I’m not saying this is what these holidays look like for everyone. I’m just talking about general trends I’ve seen in people, the media, everything. Regardless of what everyone says the holidays are about (the first group), more often than not, people feel differently about the holidays (the second group). A lot of us get a little Charlie Brown-y around the holidays whether we like it or not. Now, my point here isn’t to clarify these things for people. That’s just what I’ve done so far so that I can get around to my point. But first, let’s go a little more in-depth.
Recently, I was talking to my friend Billy about the weird depression that kind of goes around in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving. There’s something that happens to some college students right before they go home to spend time with their family where everything kinda hits the fan and comes crashing down. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about at first. Over the next few days, we basically lost count of how many people broke down crying for reasons unbeknownst to us in public. He couldn’t deny my point, though. Something happens before Thanksgiving where everybody gets a little stressed. It may have something to do with returning home to family for some people. And maybe things don’t get resolved before they get there. And maybe things don’t get resolved before they leave again. Regardless, there’s a universal stress that seems to go around before Thanksgiving. I’m not sure why, but it does. And nothing I’ve said even touches on what happens Thanksgiving Day. After spending the day with their families, being thankful for everything they’ve been so blessed to have and all that jazz, they leave their homes Thursday evening to wait in lines for several hours and then (some people) proceed to get into fist fights with others trying to buy things they don’t really need. I’m not saying I hate Black Friday. In fact, I take advantage of it most of the time. However, I don’t think that the on same day you spent being thankful for what you have you should get taken away in handcuffs trying to obtain the things you don’t have. As soon as the turkey’s been eaten and the pie’s gone, people return to being materialistic and greedy. Personally, I just don’t get it.
So, Christmas. Everybody loves Christmas, right? And not even I can deny that there’s something magical that happens around this time of year. People are quite often more courteous, compassionate, and patient than they would be normally. There are tons of organizations that do things around Christmas time, such as provide food and shelter for the homeless, reach out and help provide for children in need who may be in poor family situations, all that awesome stuff. I love seeing that spirit around this time of year. I love seeing people being so considerate towards other people. Until December 26th, that is. Like “Christmastime Is Here,” the classic song from A Charlie Brown Christmas says,”Oh that we could always see such spirit through the year.” People change, but only for as long as everybody else does. Once the commercials stop and KOSI 101 stops playing Christmas music, people return to their old selves again. Once again, I’m not saying this is the case across the board, I’m only noticing trends. Encounter the same stranger before Christmas and then again after Christmas, and, chances are, they’ll treat you differently. I don’t understand why, but they do. These are the kinds of thoughts I share with Charlie Brown about the holidays. They change people. But not always for the better. New Year’s Eve is a perfect example of this.
The new year is always a turning point for people for some reason. I generally just see it as another day, but whatever. Once you’ve stayed up until midnight on any night other than New Year’s Eve, it kind of makes December 31st lose its magic. Anyway, New Year’s Eve is a time for life change, apparently. People start making big plans for what the new year is going to look like. They make resolutions to work out more, eat healthier, stop smoking, study more, spend more time with their families, blah, blah, blah, etc. The list goes on forever. I don’t get New Year’s resolutions. Never have. When I was in second grade, we were supposed to make New Year’s resolutions for class. I’m pretty sure mine was to beat an entire video game before February. Knowing me and video games back then, I probably beat three before the second week of January. New Year’s resolutions didn’t have any real importance for me then, and they still don’t now. I don’t think I’ve made any resolutions since I was supposed to make one in second grade. Part of the reason is that I don’t get what makes a new year such a significant time to do so. The other part is because I honestly can’t think of any examples of people I know who have actually stuck to their resolutions. New Year’s Eve seems to be the time where people get super depressed about their lives because everything is terrible, things could and should be different, and they wish they had done things differently the previous year. But New Year’s Day, that’s different. It’s a new year, a new beginning, a time to start fresh, so therefore, it’s time to make a bunch of goals to completely give up on and forget in about two weeks. If you’re not going to stick with it in the first place, what the heck is the point? As usual, I just don’t understand it.
Last but not least of my examples, we have Valentine’s Day. Or, as I and many others like to call it, “Singles Awareness Day.” The weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day are full of advertisments in the media telling you that you need to buy your significant other diamonds, a car, a load of candy, or some other bunch of crap to show them that you love them or something. Because obviously, the formula is “Amount of money spent = Amount of love,” right? The days leading up to Valentine’s Day tell everyone in any sort of romantic relationship that they need to show how much they love the person based on how much money they spend, while Valentine’s Day itself is sickeningly full of people talking about how much they loooooooooove their boyfriend/girlfriend that they’ve been in a relationship with for two weeks (just so that they’d have a boyfriend/girlfriend on Valentine’s Day itself). And for the people who aren’t in a relationship on Valentine’s Day, quite frequently they just feel bad about being single, wish they weren’t single, complain about being single, and then cry themselves to sleep while watching romantic comedies and eating chocolate that they bought for themselves. I hate Valentine’s Day. And not for the reasons that most people do. I don’t hate it because I’m single by any means. I hate it because everyone freaks out about it.
So those are my opinions and skepticisms on the holidays from November through February. So this would be a great place to end my rant, right? Everything sucks, there’s no redeemable qualities about anything. Well, wrong. Charlie Brown always experiences something positive during the holidays that are so terrible to him. On Thanksgiving, after Peppermint Patty decides to be a total jerk, Marcie comes and talks to him, saying, “Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that’s what they mean by ‘Thanksgiving,’ Charlie Brown.” After bringing his tiny Christmas tree back to the auditorium and being ridiculed by the other children, Charlie Brown asks if anybody knows what Christmas is all about, and Linus gives his incredibly memorable speech out of the second chapter of Luke in the Bible. On New Year’s Eve, after being completely heart-broken and missing the little red-haired girl’s appearance, he is again approached my Marcie who tries to cheer him up by giving him a kiss on the cheek and saying simply, “Happy new year, Charles!” (It’s my opinion that Charlie Brown and Marcie need to eventually get married. And if they don’t, well, that’s just disappointing.) And the day after Valentine’s Day, after being crushed and let down by the other children at school, his friend (and I use the term “friend” loosely) Violet gives him a pity card, which leaves Charlie Brown hopeful that this will start a trend and he’ll receive even more Valentine’s cards the next year. There are so many wonderful lessons and messages to be learned from the holidays, and Charlie Brown has learned many of them firsthand. Given, he had to suffer through some unfortunate experiences to learn said lessons, but still. But I still find his skepticism about holidays is completely justified. There are a lot of downsides to holidays, quite honestly. My biggest problem is that people go about them the wrong way. And now, finally, we get around to my point.
Let’s get this out of the way first. I’m a Christian, and therefore I have different opinions about things than most people. I live for something bigger than myself, I have different motivations and reasons for doing the things I do. But that’s a discussion for another time. The reason I bring this up is because my faith has led me to approach holidays in a different way. Holidays for me are a time to focus on something specific, such as being thankful around Thanksgiving, generous around Christmas, take time to show those around me that I love them, etc, etc. What’s different for me, though, is that these attitudes and different things that people focus on aren’t attitudes I try to take up only around these specific times of the year. Instead, I try to do these kinds of things on a regular basis. And I’ve discovered that when I do, I can really keep that “spirit of Christmas” or whatever around when it’s not December. The things I try to do, and the things I’m recommending may be things that come from my faith and beliefs. They may be things that Jesus said, sure. But they don’t sound crazy. They don’t even really sound Biblical. They just sound like things that regular human beings should do.
Instead of just spending time on Thanksgiving day being thankful for the things I have, I try to take time to recognize those things every day. When I see the things I don’t have, or things that I want, I try to remember all the things that I’ve been blessed to have in my life already. Like food, shelter, a loving family, and wonderful friends. On that note, take time to let your friends and family know that you’re thankful for them. Let them know that you’re grateful for their friendship, that you appreciate their company and enjoy spending time with them. I have a friend who does this quite frequently, and I can say that feeling appreciated makes me even more appreciative. Everyone wants to feel appreciated. Let them know that you appreciate having them in your life.
Around Christmas time, people are generally more helpful, generous, gracious, patient, and compassionate towards other people. But what would life be like if that’s how people were all the time? I try to do what I can to take time to help people when I see a need. Take a couple seconds to hold the door open for someone coming behind you. Offer to help people out with their homework, or help them move, or help them take in the groceries or something. Take time to take someone out to lunch or coffee, and pay for the whole thing. And don’t do it for any reason other than that you want to spend time with them, get to know them better. Taking that kind of time out of your schedule for another person can mean the world to somebody. Also, just try volunteering. Whether it’s at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, your church, anything. Just try doing some work for no personal gain every now and then. Helping other people without expecting any sort of payment in return is quite humbling, and making an impact in another person’s life is priceless.
When it comes to New Year’s Eve, here’s my question: Why wait until January 1st to make a life change? Why wait until a new year to “start fresh”? Every day is a new day, a new chance to change something. Why not change what you’re doing now? Why not just get started instead of setting big goals for a new year? And here’s my recommendation: Once you make those goals, find someone to keep you accountable. If you really want to work out more and lose weight, talk to a friend who goes to the gym frequently and schedule times to work out with that person. Same goes for any other goals you set. Find someone who already has your goal as a regular part of their daily life, and ask them to help you keep up with your goals. Having someone to keep you accountable will help you accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams.
And now for Valentine’s Day. Here’s the thing, you don’t have to let the people you love know that you care about them one day of the year. That should be something that happens daily. Just take some time to love and appreciate the people that you care about. Valentine’s Day is a specific day dedicated to just that, sure. But it shouldn’t be the only day that it happens. And on another note, if you’re in a relationship, don’t rub it in peoples’ faces. And if you’re not in a relationship, that’s totally fine. There’s nothing wrong with being single. I call Valentine’s Day “Singles Awareness Day” along with all the people who are depressed about being single. But the difference for me is that I enjoy Valentine’s Day because I enjoy being single. There are so many fantastic benefits. Do I always want to be single? No, of course not. But until that day comes, I’m not going to wish I was in a relationship. Doing that is just a huge waste of time. But, once again, this is a discussion for another time.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m perfect. Far from it. These aren’t things that I have down pat. I have to actively think about doing this stuff every day. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m selfish. I’m one of the most selfish people I know. I think about myself way to much and don’t think nearly enough about other people and what I can do for their benefit. These are just some things I try to do to change that. It’s not easy. It’s actually really hard. And a lot of times I have to to stop, examine what I’m doing, think about what I need to change, and then go about doing what I can to change that. It’s still something I’m working on and still have trouble with, but the more I work on it, the more natural it becomes, and the more I see myself change because of it. I’d encourage you to give it a shot and see what it does for you. If it doesn’t do anything at all, I’m sorry. Please disregard everything I’ve said. Maybe I’m crazy.
So to sum everything up, here’s my basic conclusion: Don’t let the holidays change everything. The holidays should be a big deal, sure, but the way I see it, they shouldn’t completely change the way you live your life from day to day. The holidays should just be the days that you spend focusing on the things you already do. So instead of waiting for holidays for certain things to happen, be thankful throughout the day, be patient and help people out during the school year, make new goals today, let your loved ones know that you care about them every time you get the chance, and just compliment people when the opportunity arises. Treating each day like it’s a holiday will make everyone a lot less Charlie Brown-y about the holidays. Don’t wait for the holidays to love on people. Instead, take every opportunity you can to love people. I think you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.