It’s the most depressing time of the year

Christmas was fun when I was a kid. My parents, brother, and extended family–about twenty of us in all–would go to my grandparents’ house down the road for a big meal every Thanksgiving and Christmas and monthly birthdays and who knows what else. While I wasn’t necessarily close to my extended family and always lamented the person closest to my age was my younger brother, having these family get-togethers made me feel like a part of something. Even though my quiet nerdy nature made me the black sheep of the family, I didn’t complain (much) about sitting in the garage with a bunch of kids.

Every year for Christmas, I would put up two Christmas trees: one at my parents’ house and one at my grandparents’ house. One year, after Grandmother gave the tree and ornaments to some family members who no longer had one, I got to decorate the new tree with whatever I wanted, which included a bunch of bright pink ornaments, red and gold trim, and–courtesy of my brother–a cardboard star with a big purple smile. It was the goofiest looking tree I had ever seen, but dangit, I was the one who put that monstrosity together and everyone else could decorate it themselves if they found the tree ugly.

Presents at my grandparents’ house were equally fun. My grandmother never wrote the recipient’s actual name on the gift tags. Instead, she would write some code name, usually based on a theme like Christmas-related people or comic strip characters. As I got older, I helped her out with devising the theme and occasionally getting to peek at my gifts in advance.

I also assigned myself the job of displaying all the Christmas cards my grandparents received. Cards from church folks, cards from family, cards from years-past friends… My grandmother and I would hang the cards on the living room walls, filling the walls with greetings of joy and holiday wishes. By Christmas Day, cards papered all the living room walls, reminding me of all the people whose lives my grandparents had touched in some way.

As the years passed, things changed. The big family gatherings happened less frequently as the family drifted apart. Granddaddy died when I was 11. Grandmother died last year, although her condition declined during her last several years thanks to Alzheimer’s and a broken hip. There were some Christmases where everyone was so broke that the adults did Secret Santas instead of exchanging gifts for everyone. Fewer Christmas cards arrived thanks to the deaths of all the people who would send them. My parents stopped putting up a tree at their house after their new puppy tried to eat the artificial tree. In some recent years my parents would tell me there wouldn’t be much Christmas in the way of gifts, as if that was the thing that mattered about the holiday. I don’t miss the unwrapping frenzy, though. What I really miss is having everyone together in one place, at least trying to get along for just one day.

Christmas is like any other day in my family now. I go up to visit my parents and brother and usually look forward to seeing them. We have a big dinner (okay, lunch), eat the leftovers for dinner, and then go do our own individual thing. This shouldn’t upset me that much. I’m not celebrating the birth of Jesus (who likely wasn’t born in December anyway) or any of the religious aspects of the season. I just want the holidays to be happy again, not a reminder of what they used to be.

Once the most wonderful time of the year, the holidays are now the most depressing time of the year. If I want to make the holidays more cheerful, I should put in some effort to make the holidays enjoyable again. And yet… I don’t. It feels almost futile at this point, like no one else will appreciate my efforts, which makes me sadder at the prospect of adding some holiday cheer. Maybe I should, even if it means sending out Christmas cards after everyone has long forgotten about Christmas. I do have a big stack of blank Christmas cards that want homes.

Maybe the holiday season isn’t my thing anymore. I don’t know. But whatever the case, I just want some holiday cheer again. Is that too much to ask? To make matters worse, the holidays lead into an even longer depressing period know as winter. Once Christmas, the new year, and my early January birthday are over, I have little to look forward to until spring. And that is truly sad.

April Fools’ Day jokes I wish were real

I love April Fools’ Day. It’s the one day of the year where everyone can let their hair down and not take anything too seriously while playing some great jokes at the same time. Some sites pull jokes so convincing or so cool that I wish they were real or around all year long. Here are a few of them.

Store anything in Google Docs. That’s right, anything: your car keys, your computer, even a car. Sure, you have to pay by the kilogram, but that’s a small price to pay when you’re moving or deciding whether to get rid of some stuff.

Unixkcd turned xkcd into a command line terminal, complete with a ton of easter eggs. I wish we could have xkcd.com year-round along with xkcd.com/unixkcd for random tomfoolery and awesomeness.

ThinkGeek’s screaming knife was one of their featured fake products this year. Imagine hearing the scream of the cow as you cut it. I’d like to hear the scream of tofu myself. This needs to exist.

My First Bacon is another fake ThinkGeek product that must exist now. At least one of these is known to exist, as it was featured in Paul and Storm’s (well, Storm’s) consumption of an entire Fudgie the Whale cake tonight. More need to come into this world. Make it so, ThinkGeek.

Google Reader Advantage gives you points for items you read in Google Reader, a reader badge based on how many items you’ve read, and the ability to trade in points for free stuff. Based on my Google Reader addiction, this is something I can get behind. I want the Totally Sweet badge.

Santa shenanigans

Christmas was fun when I was a kid. My brother and I would stare at the presents under the tree, trying to see through the boxes and figure out what wonders were contained inside. Our parents would tell us to be good because if we didn’t, Santa wouldn’t bring us anything. The real fun began when my grandfather told us he’d sit on the porch and shoot Santa when he came along. This distressed me greatly as a child; who in their right minds would shoot the person who gave me gifts?

Thinking back to those says, I now see that Santa’s really quite creepy. Kids sit on his lap and tell him what they want, and Santa welcomes them. He breaks into your house at night and leaves evidence that he has been there. He eats your food. Food that you’ve left out for him, sure, but he eats your food all the same. I love cookies. I don’t want Santa eating my cookies. Then somehow he gets back out and rides off into the night. He’s the reverse criminal in a really strange way.

None of this stopped me from watching NORAD’s Santa tracker tonight, though. I opened it when someone mentioned it on Twitter, I believe when Santa entered North America. Santa chilled out in the islands, which brings up another point–this man must dress in layers in order to stay comfortable for the whole night. Then he swooped back into South America before visiting the US and visited the stop nearest me.

NORAD tracks Santa in Atlanta

Maybe Santa didn’t stop by my current town at the moment because I’m still awake, another remnant of what my parents told me about Santa. Maybe it’s just another element of Santa magic. Who knows?

Whatever it is, may each of you have a very happy holiday, or may you have already had it if you’ve already celebrated. Be safe and enjoy.

National Popcorn Popping Month

The beginning of a new month turns many new leaves, including many Awareness months. Among the more interesting ones is National Popcorn Popping Month. Not National Popcorn Month, which would make more sense, but National Popcorn Popping Month. You can pop corn in the microwave, over a fire, and in a popcorn maker. Any other ways I missed that you can use to celebrate?