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

A-Charlie-Brown-Christmas-image
Scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas © Charles Schulz, Warner Bros. Television Distribution (source)

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

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 McDonalds commercials. The same ones that I’ve watched for years.

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

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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Like what you’ve just read? Cary posts to Geek Force Network every Friday; and you can also find more words that she put together in paragraphs at Recollections of Play and United We Game.

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4 thoughts on “Why holiday specials matter to me (and it has little to do with nostalgia)”

  1. I haven’t been able to get into Christmas for several years now, but I remember the days when these specials really mattered. I fondly remember one channel doing a marathon of cartoon Christmas specials/movies. I managed to see weird stuff like the Pac-Man cartoon Christmas special and the Smurfs’. Pretty crazy, but so much fun.

    1. We have a channel here that runs strange and unusual specials on Christmas Eve and Day. Can’t say I’ve ever caught any of the marathon, but I should find out if it runs a Pac-Man special. That would be something to see!

      Christmas has changed a lot for my family over the years, especially since people have moved away and had kids. The “excitement” of the day has definitely dwindled for me, though I do like the time leading up to the holiday.

      1. Check it out if you can find it. It’s a lot of 80’s fun.

        Yeah. I love the idea and the feel of the season, but it seems like it has no real pay off now that I am older. Maybe I’ll have kids one day and I can find a way to revitalize the holiday for myself!

  2. Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    My love of nostalgia was the whole reason I started Recollections of Play (and my love of video games, haha), but sometimes wistful memories of the past have little to do with my current entertainment choices, especially around the holidays. Here’s a piece I wrote for Geek Force Network that explains just this premise.

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