Editorial

Christmas - like a funeral?

Dianne St. Jean

Okay, perhaps the title sounds depressing, maybe even a bit morbid, but hear me out.

We all see the good of Christmas splashed around through media, mostly from advertisers. And why not? Some of their biggest bucks come from the Christmas Season. On television especially it’s all glitter and glow, fun and festivity.

So, you ask, how can I dare compare Christmas to a funeral?

Well, for one thing, family celebrations and get-togethers at Christmas tend to reveal true feelings or the status of relationships between family members.

For example, “Uncle Joe” is usually invited only at Christmas, because that’s the proper or right thing to do; otherwise, no one bothers to call him throughout the rest of the year. But since it’s Christmas…

It’s the same thing with gifts. The fact that a gift is given is not necessarily a sign of genuine sentiment; rather, the type of gift that is given (if any) often reveals what really lies beneath.

Regardless of what some may really think of certain family members, holiday protocol dictates the need for politeness, tolerance, and on the extreme level, forced or even fake affection.

Now, let’s take a look at what happens at most funerals.

The same type of protocol used at Christmas often occurs at funerals. Family members that either don’t normally speak to each other, and in some cases, would rather not, are thrown together because the formal circumstance dictates it.

And, like Christmas politeness, eulogies tend to focus on the good things about the person who died. If there was real conflict or even unsavoury qualities in that person, these are usually glossed over by either totally neglecting to mention them, or by downplaying or even making light of it. At funerals, as at Christmas, while everyone in the room may know of the tension or even downright dislike between individuals, normally politeness prevails.

Now, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that – it’s called being respectful. Events such as Holidays or funerals, even weddings, birthdays or any other family celebration, are occasions that train us to temper our emotions and be civil to one another for a greater cause. It’s not so much the masquerading of true feelings than it is a symptom of what is already wrong before there is a funeral or Christmas dinner.

In that light, there is one stark difference between Christmas and a funeral. We usually presume there will be another Christmas and that, yes, we will once again, if even for that one time of year, see “Uncle Joe”; whereas the harsh reality of a funeral is that there can never again be another invitation.

While we may be able to stuff down our resentments at Christmas, it is not so easy to stuff down regrets when someone is gone for good. Against best efforts, regrets will rise to the top because of the finality of death.

Treat Christmas then like a funeral, even if it means pretending this may be the last one you will share with each other; yes, even those you would rather avoid or who you have withheld forgiveness from. The next family event may be a funeral.