I have a stupid Christmas tradition that I started a year ago and hold dearly. Can you call something a tradition if you only started it a year ago? And really, it’s more of an “end of the year” tradition, I guess. Doesn’t matter. It’s a Christmas tradition now and I’m standing by that.
See, I take off of work from the week of Christmas until the new year rolls around. I might drive somewhere out of town or do something special during that time. For the most part, though, all I do is watch the movie Four Brothers as often as possible. I take it with me whenever I go somewhere, especially friends’ houses, and I ask them frequently if they would like to watch it with me. I bring it up quite a bit. My friends are rarely amused by this.
It’s funny to me. And it’s stupid and quite honestly I’m sure it annoys everyone I talk to but at the end of the day it is something I do and something I think it is funny. And if there is one thing that is true about me, it’s that I will go fully in on something I find to be funny, regardless of whether or anyone feels the same.
Perhaps that’s why it’s become a tradition: it allows me to end the year entirely on my own terms. Not terms dictated by the pressures at work, and not terms dictated by the social pressures surrounding me at all times. It’s my own stupid way of embracing what is, for me at least, the most insecure time of the year.
The season around us always fills me with a bit more melancholy than I would really like to admit. While there is so much about Christmas that I love, there’s always at least one or two days during the season that I don’t care for. The night before Christmas Eve is always one of those nights. No matter the situation, I always feel more isolated and awkward on that day than any other day of the year.
Presents should have been wrapped by now, but they’re not. Still sitting in the plastic bags they came in, waiting patiently for me to finally have the attention span to take care of it. It’ll come. Sometime soon.
If anything, it’s probably directly related to the end of the year forcing a year-in-review retrospective, whether I like it or not. It’s time where I have to look back and determine whether I did my best work possible this year, whether or not I went to new places or learned new things, and whether or not I’ve even accomplished anything worthwhile. Most of the time, I’m still stuck with the feeling that I haven’t, and with the dread that maybe I won’t.
Maybe this is all there is for me. That’s the thought that tends to attack the most during this time of the year. I can sit in a coliseum, watching a basketball game, and thinking to myself how alone I feel amongst the crowd of people around me. None of them know me, none of them would have any reason to know me, and that’s terrifying to somebody like me. Somebody who craves significance so badly. I bet my counselor friends would say I have daddy issues or something. I just think it’s ego.
Or maybe it’s expectation. This is the season of expectations, after all. “Advent” means “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event”. It means that we are literally in the season of looking for the arrival. Which means it’s probably annoying for me to have finished the newest edition of my favorite video game in the same week that the new Star Wars came out. Now I have nothing to expect in terms of the hobbies I love or the entertaining moments from my childhood that I hold close.
And yes, that’s a stupid thing to feel emotional about. It’s a video game and a massive movie that will have sequels and I will purchase at a later date anyway. There was a feeling of dread I had while playing the game that yes, it would have to end someday soon, and yes, that feeling of dread is a really stupid thing to have. But keep in mind you’re talking to somebody who purposefully watches the same decade old movie several times in one week strictly because he finds it funny. Also keep in mind that you’re talking to a blog post.
Blog posts. I remember when I used to write those. When I used to believe that I was a good writer. Am I? Was I? I haven’t done it in so long that I don’t remember. I used to write a lot of funny tweets, too. Depression and cynicism sort of killed that desire for the most part. These are the things I think about during this time of year: whether or not I have done or will do these notable things. Or maybe just trying to remember who I am.
See, that’s probably why I like the movie Four Brothers so much to begin with. It’s a simple revenge film. Four adopted brothers return home because their mother was murdered. In the process, they find there’s more to the killing, and they get revenge. That’s about it.
But digging deeper, we see the four of them rediscover who they really are. If disasters and hard times are what bring us together, then we see four characters pretty soundly reconnect with each other like they never had before. Four degenerates, four outcasts (which is not a pun, considering one of the main characters is played by Andre Benjamin) who find themselves again, as they find their home, their place, and each other. I can relate to that. Or maybe I’m jealous of that.
My favorite Christmas hymn is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, the ancient chant of expectation that was uttered during ancient Vespers in centuries long past. I don’t think it’s ironic that it holds such an appeal to me. The melody was added in 1851, a haunting tune that holds great hope inside of it’s broken down and dramatic tone. The word “Rejoice!” is proclaimed in perhaps the most unenthusiastic chord one could find, hinting at the longing, the expectation, and the desire for something greater to arrive. To return.
There’s something about the combination of haunting melody and exhausted, longing words that wakes me up a bit. It brings back into focus the familiarity that is often lost in all the constant longing for more, thirsting for acceptance or significance. It brings back the feeling that there is something to rejoice in, even when the years seem to blend together into one straight, unspectacular line. Even while we are in captivity, there is a reason to rejoice.
So yeah, this year I will get weirdly melancholy again. And I’ll think about writing more often, but as it always does, that feeling will leave. And I’ll watch the same stupid movie over and over simply because I like it, it makes me happy, and I find it funny. And I’ll probably just start playing that same stupid video game again, even though I feel weirdly forlorn that it won’t be just as new to me this time around.
Yet in those days, when I find the courage to sleep in a little more, maybe even ignore the professional or societal or personal pressures just a touch, I will try to do something else as well. I will rejoice, for Emmanuel came once before to ransom captive Israel. And even though that moment, like the movies and video games and blog posts and trips and past experiences have all come and gone, this one and no other has eternal consequences. So while You came before already, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel again, and rescue Your people from this melancholy, busy, insignificant captivity once again.
O Come, O Come. Veni, Veni.
I guess I should wrap those gifts now.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.