Why holiday specials matter to me (and it has little to do with nostalgia)

Happy holidays, folks! I’m off for the day as I attempt to squeeze in a year’s worth of shopping in less than 24 hours because apparently I’m terrible at life. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this little blast from my blogging past about why I’ll always watch, and look forward to watching, Christmas-y TV specials of the days of yore.

The following post originally appeared on Geek Force Network, December 6, 2013.

Scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas © Charles Schulz, Warner Bros. Television Distribution

As an older person without kids, what business do I have snuggling up for the annual showings of How the Grinch Stole ChristmasA Charlie Brown Christmas, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? Not much if you ask society. I mean, c’mon lady, don’t you have anything better to do with your holiday time?? There are things to bake, make, and decorate! There’s all that spreading of holiday cheer among your friends, family, and co-workers! And there’s all sorts of other…um, stuff…that, uh, women tend to do around the holidays! Old holiday cartoons are old news!

Well, society my dear, you’ve simply got it all wrong. Yes, it’s true that the holiday season is busy enough for both, ahem, men AND women AND children AND pets, but behind all that hustle and bustle hides, for me, an air of melancholy. It’s not seasonal affective disorder or something as heavy as full-blown depression, just melancholy, and only hints of it here and there.  However, with each passing year, my sadder moments become harder to escape. And I never quite know just how they’re going to manifest each year. Maybe it takes me a little longer to really “get into the holiday spirit,” maybe I put off decorating for another weekend, maybe I bake a couple less special treats.

Scene from How the Grinch Stole Christmas © Dr. Seuss Enterprises L.P., Turner Entertainment Co.

But I LOVE Christmastime, I really do! I love the lights, the decorations, and the music. I love the cards, the get-togethers, and the well wishes for a Happy New Year. Or, at least, this is what I tell myself after Thanksgiving. While I do enjoy all this, I can’t help but contend with at least a few bouts of internal gloominess along the way. When I recall the year past, negative thoughts and feelings (even if there aren’t many) overwhelm the positive ones. I feel both weary and wary of the start of yet another year. Yet, rather than completely give into what could become a potentially devastating bout of unhappiness, I fight melancholia with holiday movies and, yes, holiday specials. The same ones that regular broadcast networks air only once, maybe twice a season. The same ones that are littered with McDonald’s commercials. The same ones that I’ve watched for years.

Scene from Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer © Rankin/Bass, CBS

While I can’t say that I have an unbroken record of yearly viewings, I’ve made a concerted effort to watch at least a couple holiday specials (my two personal favorites being How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas) each year since I moved away from home. Sure, the words are the same, the songs are the same, the characters are the same, and they all promote very simple messages of peace and harmony, but that’s the point. These holiday specials with their cartoons and stop-motion and fake snow are grounding, which is exactly what I need in December when I’m often feeling like I’m floating in the muck and mire of months past. They remind me of what’s important – home, friendship, and positivity. The stories of Charlie Brown and his Christmas tree, of Rudolph and his nose so bright, of Frosty and the dreaded sun, all bring my mind to a very serene and clear point. During those thirty minutes, I focus on the images, refocus on life’s joys, and remember how lucky I truly am and how many more good things are (surely) forthcoming. Like I alluded to in the title of this post, A Charlie Brown Christmas doesn’t turn back the clock for me as much as it turns it forward. I take from these yearly holiday reminders a better sense of all that I can accomplish to the right mindset.

So if you want to find me this month, you don’t have to look very far. Just check the TV listings and I’ll be there with Snoopy, Rudolph, Santa Claus, the misfits and the Bumbles, and the merry Whos of Whoville fighting off the holiday doldrums and enjoying the best messages the season has to offer.

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