What do we do when Christmas isn’t a time of joy for us and all around we see those where it is?
When I wrote my Christmas stories, I tried to keep Christmas as a positive time. I though several times used the other side of Christmas, how it can be a dark season for some of us or at certain times in our lives. For my books, I stuck to an upbeat ending, as we need more of that in our lives-- and the news provides us with plenty of instances where it's anything but.
Some of how we feel about this important holiday is influenced by how much control we have over how we spend the days. If we are in a family, where others need a particular way of seeing Christmas, our options are fewer than if we are by ourselves. Christmas might seem a lonely time to be by ourselves. It can be lonelier to be with a lot of people and feeling none of what they feel.
For those by themselves for the holidays, they can take a trip. If they always wanted a white Christmas, but don’t live where that’s going to happen, go where it is. Going to a big resort or on a cruise by oneself might seem sad, but the likelihood is there will be others there in the same situation. Doing something really different can be liberating.
Another way to make Christmas into a different experience is volunteering at a place handing out Christmas dinners. Serving others, seeing they are in worse shape than we are, may have a depressing aspect, but it can also take us out of ourselves - -something we all need once in a while.
Image from Stencil
Part of what makes Christmas in particular a holiday with pluses and minuses is based on expectations. I think getting control of our expectations can make us happier in a potentially troubled time as well as one that is supposed to be joyous.
In 2014, when I wrote A Montana Christmas, I had in mind continuing a story of a couple who'd had their own love story and romance. In From Here to There, the heroine had learned that her husband had come from a very dysfunctional family. In their Christmas book, her object was to bring his family to the Rocking H ranch, joining them with hers, and creating a new dynamic that would change what had been his negative expectations into positive ones.
Christmas is one of those times where that kind of idea can work or prove catastrophic. The hero is convinced it will be the latter. The heroine is determined Christmas has been a time of magic for her, and it will be for the two families. She has many reasons to hope she is right.
Here is a snippet from A Montana Christmas, where Helene discusses her plans for the holidays with her uncle and the ranch hired man:
“Speaking of seasons,” she said, “with Christmas just three weeks off, I was thinking we should make some plans.”
“More than the usual with Nancy, Emile and the boys?” her uncle asked.
“I was thinking yes… Phillip will be here, I hope. I’d like to have the dinner up at our house. How would that be?”
Amos shrugged. “Never no mind to me if it don’t matter to Emile and them.”
“I invited too?” Curly asked.
“Of course, and a girlfriend if you wish.”
Curly snorted as he leaned back against the counter, crossing one boot over the other. “Women are too danged much trouble. Not gonna mess with one again. I’m too old anyway.”
Now it was Helene’s turn to snort. “You are still a handsome man, Curly, and you know it. What happened with Sherri?”
Amos was the one to laugh that time. “She found out about Jan and that was pretty much it for both of them.”
“Good riddance to both. Women just wanta own a man.”
“Maybe you haven’t found the right one yet,” Helene suggested.
“He’s been married three times. Maybe he’s right to give it a rest.”
Obviously to divert that direction for the conversation, Curly asked, “What you going to cook, Helene, not that I’d be picky or anything.”
“Just traditional fare.”
“So long as that means turkey, dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes and lots of gravy,” her uncle said with a grin. “I got no complaints. But what’s this planning business about. Throw a spread, open some presents, isn’t that about it? What’s to plan for?”
“There are the numbers. I’ll call Nancy to be sure they can come.” She glanced at Rafe who had said nothing. “You will come also, won’t you?”
“Where else would I go?” he said with a grimace as he shifted positions and manned up to another sip of the potent coffee.
“If no one minds, I’d like to include a few others. One or two that might have to sleep down here.”
Uncle Amos frowned. “My sister coming?”
“Heavens no.” She laughed. “Mother is in Palm Springs with her bridge buddies, and Dad is off with Sharron to wherever it is she convinced him to take her this year. No, not them. I’d like to ask Phillip’s mother, sisters and brother.”
Curly choked on a swallow of coffee. When he got his voice back, he asked, “Phil okay that?” His look said he doubted it.
Despite having had a rocky start when Phillip first showed up at the ranch to win Helene back, those two had ended up working buddies and pretty much thick as thieves. If he had confided his feeling about Christmas to anyone, it would have been Curly, which meant he understood all too well why Phillip wouldn’t want his family there, anymore than he had wanted to have any sort of traditional Christmas.
A Montana Christmas is available as a novella but also until mid-January in the anthology, Christmas from the Heart. I had meant to write more stories about this family but other books got in the way. Still, someday I want to do it as I love writing about ranch life and these people-- just have to get my paranormals finished-- maybe the last one could use Christmas as part of it :).