Holiday Half-sies

I grew up with all kinds of ambivalent feelings about holidays. Almost all holidays. Name a holiday and I will spew back at you some sort of love-hate crap associated with it. For example:

New Years?
Postive: Parties and staying up late and feeling like you can start anew! Negative: All this pressure to change your life with resolutions and such can really get to be a drag.

Positive: Eating and friends and days off from work!
Negatives: That whole Native American genocide thing.

Positives: Again, parties! And fun/funny costumes. And candy. All good stuff!
Negatives: Bossy costume people who make shy people and/or people who aren’t costumey feel bad. Or work places that make you dress up in themey outfits. Halloween peer pressure is very high maintenance.

Valentine’s Day?
Positives: Celebrating love! What could be better than that?
Negatives: All this coupley hetero “you complete me” boolshizz. Gross.

I don’t know why I am like this. I think it’s partly because I have two very strong character traits that sometimes go toe to toe with each other. One part of me is just really a very happy, genial, accepting person. Hey, you want to celebrate something? I love celebrating! I’m IN! Another equally strong part of me is an introspective, critical thinker type person. Wait a minute. What does this all really mean? And does it mean something to me for real or just because everyone else is making a big hooey about it?

Not only do I have a split personality in that way, I have this split personality thing in another way. Culturally. I was born in the US, but as child of immigrant parents. One part of me is all you better believe I am as American as you! And the other part of me is all this American stuff isn’t mine. Not really.

When I was growing up, my family did it up on all the holidays. No one ever overtly told me that Thanksgiving wasn’t mine, or Christmas, or St. friggin’ Patrick’s Day. There was no difference in how we celebrated holidays if you compared our house to any other house in our city. But somehow, the message seeped in. I never really felt ownership of holidays. There was always a part of me that felt like I was just playacting the part of holiday-celebrater. Not all of me, but a part of me. And the thing is, it works both ways. When I go back to the place where my parents were born, those holidays don’t seem like they’re completely mine either. So I get half of both, but whole of neither.

So. This time of year. The Big Holiday Season. Puts me in a tizzy. How much do I envy the people who just celebrate because they know this holiday– it’s theirs. I look around at my friends and I see a certainty about how they celebrate that I never have felt in my entire life. They all do things a bit different from each other, depending on their religious beliefs, or their family traditions. But they are (well, most of them are) all American. And so they know what they want to do for the holidays, and they just do it. Simple.

Not so at my house. Every year it’s the same damn thing. Do I get a tree for Christmas or not? And stockings? And mistletoe? Is Christmas, the way that it’s celebrated in this country, mine? Should I do that? Some years I do, some years I don’t. The years that I do, I always feel a little bit like a fraud, but at other times I really like it. The years I don’t, I am always wistful at the cozy trees that reside in my friends’ houses. It’s like I am looking in on someone else’s house and it’s cozy and warm in there, but I can’t quite get in. But I also feel good that I’m not feeling that fraudulent feeling. So it’s part good and part bad. I just never feel whole. Either way.

The older I get, the more I am trying to make things my own. I feel like that’s the only solution that feels ok to me. I do this all the time with other parts of my life. For instance, the way relationships are set up? So many things I hate about that model. So, my relationship with Nordic Boy has to be made our own. Just because the rules don’t apply to us doesn’t mean I can’t participate, you know? So we’ll do this whole relationship thing, but on our terms. So I’ve got to figure out a way to do this with the holidays. For instance. Eating and parties are two things I never have a problem with on any holiday. Those two things are consistently what I find positive about every holiday I can think of. So my December holiday? Has to involve these things. Also, loved ones. Yes to those, please. And giving/getting a little giftie-poo is a nice thing. So check yes on my list for that.

That’s the stuff I am sure about. The other stuff? I’m still all mixed up over. Maybe that’s what I should be celebrating. Not to get all Coom-Bah-Yah about it, but I’m just all mixed up and that’s sort of beautiful in its own way, right?

Or maybe I could saw a tree in two pieces and put up half of it. That would be uniquely me, wouldn’t it?

Tell me, what are some holiday things that you do that are just ALL YOU? Things that you do not because it’s tradition, not because it’s what you’re supposed to, but just because you’ve made the holiday all your own? Go ahead. Inspire me.

I’m out,
Librarian Girl


  1. Good question. I can’t think of anything I do that makes any holiday mine. I do eat tangerines while putting up the Christmas tree because I like the smell. And I lay on the floor looking up the trunk of the tree at the lights from the inside, it’s the most beautiful that way. They are my traditions that I started around the time I was 5 or so. I did have a boyfriend once who also did the tree thing.

  2. my parents are immigrants too so thanksgiving was definitely not our holiday. my thanksgiving tradition was fishing for dinner invitations from my american friends so i could experience the typical american holiday. our family has traditions for christmas though, but my parents seem to have established them early on in their lives together – they don’t really come from their respective families’ celebrations so much. you and nordic boy just need to establish your own traditions for holidays so you do have something that feels like yours.

  3. I share your ambivalence about holiday hoo-ha. And I am one of those crazy people who can argue convincingly on both sides of an argument, when I’m convinced that each side has merit. Which does happen, but then I am a vegetarian who likes bacon cheeseburgers, a nonsmoker who smokes unfiltered cigarettes, and a lesbian who likes — well, I won’t go into it here, but sometimes I like to do it with men. And except when it comes to that awkward self-labeling part, I don’t really have too much of a problem with it. I lean more towards the cynical and/or nonobservant with holidays, especially if there’s a religious side to them, because I’ve never been religious and I feel sort of like celebrating any religious holiday is some kind of weird cultural appropriation. My extended family, while nominally all either Catholic or Protestant, has a wide range of holiday stylings, and I always got the sense that everybody was disapproving of everybody else’s traditions. But I like parties, and occasionally have celebrations in honor of solstices or equinoxes (but not in the pagan kind of way), or I formally observe the switch to or from daylight savings time. Last year I had a big December Solstice party, and in getting the house ready I decided to hang some mistletoe at the last minute. And then I thought that the house was still insufficiently festive, so I got some tinsel at the dollar store and a string of red lights and decorated my tripod, which was kind of in the way. It has a Virgin of Guadaloupe shrine on the top. I’m not sure exactly why I collect Blessed Virgin Mary-related objets d’art, but there you have it.I haven’t taken the tripod down yet. I would miss it if it weren’t there. [Picture here, if I’m allowed to blogwhore, and if you want to see it.]

  4. i grew up feeling really left out, mostly because we didn’t have any extended family here and post-holiday bitching isn’t quite as fun when your complaints are about the people you hang with 365 anyway. but i’m with donna. we can pick and choose because we don’t have that heavy burden of tradition. and it works the other way, too. like that hindu custom for brothers and sisters–i just have to tie a friendship bracelet on my bro and promise to have his back and he gives me cash money or presents and promises the same. you better believe i’m trying to hang on to that one.

  5. I guess this really isn’t about me, but my mom’s favorite holiday is Groundhog Day. So every year I call her on this day and ask her when spring is coming.Also, to this day, Labor Day makes me want to plan what outfit I am going to wear on the first day of school

  6. This is a great question! I know what you mean about feeling like a fraud when celebrating something – that really sucks. It just makes me cranky and want to sabotage the whole thing (but not in a sinister way. You know what I mean.)My only thing I could say that I’ve made my own is making something for people (“crafting” as Martha would say). Like last year I made cards, this year with the biscotti… Everything else is tradition, but it’s all tradition I like, nothing I do just to do.

  7. I can’t make cookies. I COULD make cookies, but I don’t like it, and half of them are foul, and there’s all this pressure to exchange tins of cookies… fuck all that.I make hot sauce and I give it to anyone who dares give me cookies.Also, part of my tradition is to choke on my own ambivalence, being a total atheist, hating the red-and-green color combo, but loving buying people presents.

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