The Christmas Eve blues



Dear Blogging Friends,

I am having one of “those” Christmas Eve moments.  I’m sure some of you have had them too.  Those moments when you’re suddenly feeling blue, out-of-sorts, dismal.  It’s not yet time to open gifties (that’s tomorrow morning in our house) and it’s not yet time to make Christmas Eve dinner to share with one’s husband.  It’s not time to call all the faraway kids and parents and brothers who live in New Jersey, Oregon, lower Michigan and Georgia.

What time is it? you ask.

It’s time to feel the Christmas Eve blues.

Yes, dear reader, this is an annual tradition, as real and true as the excitement of unwrapping presents.  It’s more like the feeling Joseph and pregnant Mary must have felt when they were turned away from the inn.  It’s a tsunami of sadness that sweeps in from nowhere and decorates the house in flotsam and jetsam of sad waves of emotion.

I first felt the Christmas Eve blues in my early 20’s, the first year we didn’t take the ten-hour trek downstate to celebrate with family.  I remember the keening hurt of it–the sorrow that I wouldn’t be laughing beneath their Christmas tree, that I wouldn’t be waiting for my dad to come home from the pharmacy, that we wouldn’t be toasting our love with little champagne glasses.

I remember in those early years listening to Christmas music where a crooning Frank Sinatra or Andy Williams promised–yes vowed–to be home for Christmas, no matter what happened.  He would come back, year after snowy white year, and we would always be together come hell or high water.  (OK, our crooner would NOT have said “hell or high water” publicly; excuse the editorial interjection.)

It’s what family does, right?  We get together at Christmas.

Except when we don’t.

We live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, as many of you know, and it’s over 500 miles to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house down in the Thumb.  And you can count on 75% of all Christmas trips to involve blinding white-out snow conditions where you pray to baby Jesus in the manger than you survive to celebrate His birth.

We gave up going regularly downstate since our 30’s.  “We’ll come and visit you in spring, summer and fall!” we promised, “And you can Ho-ho-hold us to it!”

Instead, I dimmed the lights low in late afternoon in our Little House in the Woods and listened to Christmas music and imagined all of them laughing and giggling and clinking glasses and having *the most wonderful time of the year*.

Of course, we never imagined this would work backwards, as well, as our kids grew older and moved away.  THEY, of course, would come home and we would be together come hell or high water.

Except.  When our son discovered that EVERY time he flew into the Upper Peninsula in winter it took several days to get out due to intrepid snowstorms and icy runways or Santa’s sleigh crashing at the airport.  (Sorry, guys, I am trying to entertain myself with this post.)

So this year he and his wife are down in Georgia celebrating with Grandma and Grandpa Drue.

Our daughter has to work today and Wednesday where she lives out Oregon-way , so she’s otherwise occupied.  And my mom, brothers and extended family will be decking the halls and playing Christmas games and loving being together…

The last time we ventured down south to the Thumb was three years ago.  It was the last time with my dad who died less than three weeks later.


I have been thinking about all the people feeling sad on Christmas Eve.  Those missing loved ones.  Those feeling sick.  Those alone.  Those tired. Those wishing life was showing up a little different.

I am thinking about how life involves both sadness and joy.  For so many years I tried to push the sadness away, trying to figure out how to make it all happy.  But lately I am celebrating it all.  The sometimes-sadness of being human.  The sometimes-happiness of new possibilities.  The way BOTH sadness and happiness intersect and sing Christmas carols in our life.

Tonight we’ll make a fun Christmas Eve dinner together.  We’ll perhaps pour a glass of wine and toast merrily.  Tomorrow we’re going to celebrate Christmas with friends.  There will be lots of laughs and good food and appreciation.

Dried Christmas cactus petals on snow

Dried Christmas cactus petals on snow

In the meantime, I smile softly and gently at my aching heart.  The way it’s missing loved ones.  The way it wishes we would always be together, if the fates allow.

If you’re feeling even a tiny bit sad during the holidays, make a place for this in the manger of your heart.  A baby of new possibility will be born soon and hopefully you’ll soon be smiling in gratitude at the gifts this life brings.

Merry Christmas!

Love to all of you this holy-day season,  Kathy












About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in December 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to The Christmas Eve blues

  1. Barb says:

    Dear Kathy, For the first time in a long while we are not with family this Christmas. Some family visited but went home yesterday. I felt the prick of tears in my eyes as they left us. More family will arrive in the new year. But, for now Bob and I light the candles and plan our special dinner for Christmas Eve without the usual hustle and bustle. It’s snowing and blowing hard here in Breckenridge. Town is crazy with tourists, but our house in the woods is calm and peaceful. I give thanks for life and love and health. I send thoughts of safety to those traveling on snowy/icy roads. I send you and Barry hugs and wishes for a healthy 2019. You are a gift to me this Christmas Eve.

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, I read your lovely comment last night. I know what you mean about those prick of tears when loved ones wave goodbye. I hope you and Bob enjoyed a special evening in your cozy little house. Barry and I had a nice time with the Christmas lights twinkling and eating our specially planned meal. Also chatted a long time with our daughter on the phone. I think healthy sounds like a key wish for 2019! For all of us! Many blessings…

  2. john K says:

    I wish I had a magic potion to take the blues away. I haven’t been in your position since I was in the Army. There, misery loves company and we were an ad hoc family knowing the situation will last only as long as our enlistment. Barry may be retiring in the not too distant future and you may want to reassess your location and situation. May your blues be short lived and the joy of the Christ child raise you up.

    • Kathy says:

      John, it’s very weird, I really didn’t mind feeling blue. This has happened almost every Christmas Eve for 40 years that it would feel odd not to experience the heartache of being apart from loved ones. Your prayer worked because it didn’t last too long…I am almost always feeling revived by dinner time. As for Barry moving anywhere–he said to tell you that if he moves away from Lake Superior it will be in a box after his death. (I think he’s wedded to this place as well as to me…)

  3. Marty Alexander Shaw says:

    Thanks for writing your feelings on Christmas Eve. It brought back a lot of memories. Some sad some great. As a young child, Santa Claus came to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. I remember when I was six years old, I was very sick and the doctor came to our house and examined me and told my mom I needed to get into the hospital. It was Christmas Eve, and I had rheumatic fever. I remember crying because I couldn’t go to Grandma’s house to see Santa Claus. The nurses told me that he was going to be at the hospital in the morning. They had me up all day and night taking my temperature that I slept through Santa’s visit. Oh well. It’s weird how I can remember almost every day I was in the hospital. Well 58 years later I’m alive and kicking. Thank you Lord.

    • Kathy says:

      Marty, thank you so much for reading and sharing your own feelings and memories about Christmas Eve. It is interesting what we remember–maybe you remember that visit in the hospital because it was so out-of-the-ordinary. I am glad you recovered, even though you missed going to your grandma and grandpa’s house. Merry Christmas to you!

  4. dawnkinster says:

    I think it’s always hard when you’re not all together at Christmas. So many memories of Christmas past, and though we know it can never be exactly that way we wish it could be. I know my mom and dad were always sad when all 4 of us couldn’t make it home for Christmas. It’s soooo hard to travel in December and especially right around the holiday. Still…nothing is quite the same as being home for that Christmas day.

    This year it will be just Bruce and me and of course Katie who is huffing because I didn’t buy her any presents this year. Silly girl. I wish for you a warm and peaceful holiday and a bright and wonderful 2019!

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I’ll bet you miss your mom and dad so much at Christmas time. But you are so right about the difficulty of traveling. And I know YOU understand fully the challenges of getting in and out of the U.P.!! Please give Katie a pet for me this morning and tell her she’s a good doggie. (Of course she knows this already, right?) Merry Christmas and thank you for your holiday wishes! May there be moments of joy & bright throughout your day.

  5. debyemm says:

    I guess I’m one of those wishing life was showing up a little different. I broke into sobs yesterday thinking about the migrant children who won’t be with their families for Christmas. I’ve spent the last year learning so much about mother/child separations as I have sought to understand the impacts of having been adopted upon BOTH of my parents. While I hate what’s going on at the border (where I actually grew up in El Paso, not far from the big migrant children’s prison in Tornillo), it wasn’t an obsessive issue for me, until it hit me yesterday and gave me the Christmas Eve Blues a day early.

    Tonight I’m making Green Chili Enchiladas without cheese but with leftover turkey and kale. Green Chili Enchiladas was a tradition for Christmas Eve with my Mom and then Midnight Mass at the Episcopal Church and driving around to look at the luminarias (candles seated in sand in a brown paper bag) that are also a Southwestern tradition.

    In 2016, my family spent Christmas Eve with the Acoma Indians in New Mexico, helping to light their luminarias, watching their dances and going up to the top of the mesa to see their version of midnight mass (the village lining up to see the elders and each having a personal year-end powpow) in the old adobe church the Spaniards forced them to build long ago. Probably the most unique Christmas I’ll ever have.

    Wishing you Merry & Bright however you celebrate that.

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, you have such a wide-open heart. Thank you for crying for the migrant children missing their moms and dads this Christmas. You expanded your heart far beyond the personal into the larger field of love. Thank you also for sharing about the luminarias tradition in the southwest. I did not know about that. Your New Mexico Christmas sounds very special indeed. Hope you have a day filled with moments of joy this year with your family. Many blessings! And Merry & bright back to you and yours…

      • debyemm says:

        Sigh – you see so sweetly – expanded far beyond the personal into the larger field. Life is good enough, eh ?

        • Kathy says:

          Deb, I meant to come back sooner and respond to your comment here. The way you talked about the “larger field” opened something in me all day after you wrote it. I kept exploring and feeling what that opened within me. We never know when someone’s words can nudge us into a huge exploration. Yours certainly did–thank you SO much!

  6. Stacy says:

    Oh, yes, Kathy, I understand this most Christmas Eves. (Though this year, we did make the trek west and our daughter is not working.) But since I was a child, more likely, it’s the 26th blues. When even if everyone was together on Christmas, suddenly they were gone. Merry Christmas, Kathy! Thank you for sharing your words.

    • Kathy says:

      Stacy, what a good point you make. Another day when the heart might sink–December 26th–when our loved ones return to their “other” lives outside the realm of holiday gatherings. Glad to hear you are with your daughter this year, enjoying her dear company. Merry Christmas to you, as well. May 2019 be good to you!

  7. ThumbWind says:

    Our Christmas is on hold until the 27th. Then everyone will be together. Of course I now have a nasty cold in anticipation.

    • Kathy says:

      Dear ThumbWind, I am sorry to hear of your cold. May you sniffle less and less in the next two days. May the 27th find you well. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas down there in the Thumb!

  8. Val says:

    Hopefully, by now, you’re with people you love and who love you, and feel better. Many hugs and my wish that you have a happy Christmas and wonderful new Year. Let’s hope 2019 brings us all some good things. xx

    • Kathy says:

      Good morning, Val. Well, it’s not even 9 a.m. here yet, so I’m not with anyone except Barry (who I do love, smile.) We’re not going out to our friend’s house for dinner until 5 p.m. However, I do feel quite cheerful this morning. The Christmas Eve blues usually only come for a couple hours before dinner on the 24th. It’s a white Christmas Day outside and maybe a walk will be in order in a while. Hope YOU have a Merry Christmas, as well, and perhaps even friends or family with which to celebrate. Many blessings and some joy in 2019!

  9. mdoe says:

    I was an only child and always dreamed of those big Norman Rockwell Christmases. The years have fallen away and I’m now divorced, childless and with only an elderly mother for a relative. The house is so silent on Christmas morning. The only anticipation for today is a sad little ham dinner (apparently we’re just heating up a couple of slices).

    I think sometimes one needs to find different traditions away from the holiday get togethers and ho-ho’s that you don’t fit into. I’m never going to have the big family celebrations I longed for as a kid but with nothing different to replace that leaves a rather large hole.

    • Kathy says:

      Mdoe, I felt your sadness as I read this comment. It can be so hard for us humans at times. Especially when we have the capabilities to dream of something different than what presents itself. I agree with you about finding different traditions. Sometimes hard to do–but so welcome when we find the newness which expresses ourselves better than our dreams. Thank you for commenting.

  10. dorannrule says:

    I wonder how many people must relate to this very honest review of Xmas Eve blues. This is the first year in many that I haven’t felt that way. My family is scattered so the lonely feelings have been the story. This year is the same but different…missing the happy chaos of son and grands and brother and his, and closest friends. They are all out west. But I am planning a trip to see them all in 2019. And the sadness is magically lifted.

    • Kathy says:

      Dor, I have already heard from so many people who said “thank you–you’ve expressed what I am feeling”. I am glad you are not feeling blue this year. How wonderful that 2019 promises possibilities to get together with loved ones! We, too, have that happening in June. We’re all going to be together for a wedding in Italy. So the blues can possibly be tinged with hope and anticipation. Merry Christmas to you!

  11. Carol says:

    The blues for me will come when the kids go home and the holidays are over. We have a white Christmas – even the weather cooperated with me this year, waiting until after I picked Kat up at Amtrak and got back home to deposit the white stuff on the ground. Have a day of happiness with Barry today, relaxing and following your hearts.

    • Kathy says:

      Enjoy your time with your two precious kids, Carol. So glad the weather has cooperated and that you’re even enjoying a little snow. We had a great time Christmas night yesterday with friends. And have talked with so many loved ones. Merry Christmas season to you!

  12. Brenda says:

    Dear Kathy, I am wishing you a very Blessed Christmas because I know how it feels to miss loved ones during the holidays. My Grama Esther (Mom’s Mom) died on Christmas Eve back in the 70’s and my Mom died in November back in 2004. Plus, now it seems like no one in my family likes to include me in their holiday gatherings. I spend most of the holidays alone but thankfully this year, both my sons are with me. This is a precious gift! ❤ My prayer for you is that you feel peace in your heart when the feelings of sadness overwhelm you and for hope when you feel defeated by troubles. You are such a treasured friend and I am so grateful for your presence here! ❤ Sending you Christmas hugs! ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, it can be so hard when loved ones died during the holiday season. A double whammy to the heart. Sorry that you are not with your extended family, but happy that both of your sons are with you for Christmas. Precious gift indeed! Thank you for your love that beams through the Internet like a star in the sky. xoxoxo

  13. Josh says:

    This really hit home. My dad died shortly before nov 15th. That was significant because hunting runs deep in our family. I don’t have a lot of family left and those that are still around are only connected through fb. I’m going or I guess could soon be going through a divorce. That remains to be seen. But in the meantime I am living with my 5 yr old sons mom. She was kind enough to take me in while I figure my life out. I’m thankful I got to spend Christmas with my son of course but it was bitter sweet. All this and I’m in the midst of making some pretty big life changes at 43 yrs old. I’ve actually contemplated moving from northern lower Michigan, quitting my pretty decent job and moving to the u.p to homestead and just try to enjoy the rest of my life. Heart is heavy, time is not on my side any longer and as of right now I just live everyday going from work to the couch to bed and all over again. Glad the holidays are about done. Hopefully I’ll feel better. Hope everyone will start feeling better.

    • Kathy says:

      Josh, so sorry your heart is heavy this holiday season. Life can be just so tough. Making these kind of changes at mid-life can be so scary. I hope that your spirits soon lift and that you feel a solid direction to turn. Many blessings to you. I truly hope you find your way. Thanks for visiting my blog, Kathy

  14. Joanne says:

    Oh, dear Kathy, I feel your pain. You have described here the way I felt about Christmas last year.
    “The way BOTH sadness and happiness intersect and sing Christmas carols in our life” – what a poignant statement that is. Yet last Christmas, I didn’t realise how true those words are.
    My youngest son spent last Christmas in Sydney, 1000 kilometres away from his family. He didn’t want to be there. Little did I know until months later that at the time he was desperately trying to hold his marriage together.
    I tried to get into the Christmas spirit, but the pain I knew my son felt overwhelmed me. I didn’t buy any gifts, and gave my children money to buy their own gifts after Christmas for the first time ever. So on Christmas Eve, my husband and I sat together, alone, staring at a Christmas tree devoid of the usual array of brightly wrapped gifts. The buzz of Christmas had died.
    BUT … the next day, when my other three children arrived, they deposited the gifts they had bought under the tree. It felt slightly more Christmassy after they arrived …
    THEN … my eldest daughter handed each of us an envelope, instructing us to all open them at the same time. I didn’t even have my glasses on, but I caught sight of the words ‘baby’ and ‘August’, and my daughter and I melted in a flood of grateful tears on each other’s shoulder!
    This year, my son’s marriage is over. He’s with another lady now, and he’s happy. This Christmas, ALL my family was her together, including my two-year-old grandson, and four-month-old granddaughter.
    Your closing sentence – “A baby of new possibility will be born soon and hopefully you’ll soon be smiling in gratitude at the gifts this life brings” – believe that is true, Kathy. Because it is! Everything changes. We appreciate the good times even more so after experiencing the sadness of the Christmas Eve blues. xxx

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, you certainly did have a roller coaster of a Christmas last year. Overwhelming pain followed by grateful joy and tears. That is more than just a reoccurring case of the blues–that is some major change in your family. So glad that this year shines bright for all of you! My heart is overjoyed for the gifts you were given in 2018. Blessings for 2019! xoxoxo

  15. Oh, I wish I’d read this sooner, Kathy. I understand the Christmas blues. My guy and I actually have them because of our memories of how we celebrated Christmas when our kids were “little” – when they were ours from the ages of birth until about 18. We loved the way we shut off the phone and any electrical appliance (except oven and fridge, of course) and made a fire and sat in the living room together for hours, drinking hot chocolate and eggnog and eating my coffee cake and slowly, oh so slowly opening our gifts to each other. It was my favorite day each year. Until. Life changes, Our kiddies grow up and start their own traditions. As they should. As they must. And we are part of their traditions, but ours are long gone except in albums of photos in our bookcase…and in our minds. Here’s to allowing the blues in the manger of our hearts as we allow the heart to expand with the possibilities in the New Year. xo

    • Kathy says:

      Beautiful description of the blues, Pam. So tinged with nostalgia and eggnog and slow gift opening. Or, in my case, with twinkling Christmas tree lights (we don’t have a tree anymore), old-fashioned tinsel, and an old wooden manger. Ahhhh. Perhaps our lives would not be as rich without the blues coming by to visit every once in a while. I just don’t like it when/if they stay around excessively. *smile* And Happy New Year! Here’s to more acceptance of what arises. And perhaps writing more stories about what’s coming next!

  16. Robin says:

    Love to you too, Kathy. I am all too familiar with the Christmas Eve blues, having suffered them many times over the years. And oh, that song about being home for Christmas! It squeezes my heart at times. Even with the sadness (which I’m also learning to appreciate and celebrate), I have come to enjoy our quieter celebration of the season.

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, yes, those new quieter celebrations can be just as lovely–maybe even lovelier in certain ways. A person could write an entire blog post just celebrating that aspect. (I should go blog-reading and see if you already did!) So glad that I wrote this post…it really sounds like a lot of people have experienced this. xoxoxo

  17. Gladys Amigable Rodinas says:

    Happy holidays Kath! Godbless you! ♥

  18. Yes, here’s to letting the blues in, acknowledging the changes that bring them, and allowing new traditions and habits and people to step in to fill the space. I hope your Christmas was merry, dear Kathy. I’m home now, and, like you, celebrating the “in-between.”

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, you must be home from your Christmas wanderings by now. Yes, my Christmas was merry and lovely and joyful and only slightly colored by the blues. Actually, the minute I wrote this blog post they went away. Have you ever had that happen? You’re blue or out-of-sorts and you write a blog and suddenly you’re smiling and feeling like you’ve expressed something that needed expressing? Wishing you a Happy 2019!

  19. I Wilkerson says:

    Hugs to you Kathy. Wish I’d read this earlier.

    My middle daughter announced last week that she wasn’t coming home for Christmas next year. Her company closes between Christmas and New Years and makes everyone take vacation. Since she is new with little vacation, she decided she needs this time to travel. So I will have some level of Christmas Blues myself next year. Perhaps I’ll come back and read this again then.

    On a brighter note, I LOVE your snow. Milwaukee has had effectively none and I feel most deprived! Best wishes for a great 2019.

    • Kathy says:

      Inger, how nice to see you here! How disappointing that your dear one can’t make it home for the holidays next year. I am glad she gave you some time to try and make peace with it, to feel all those sad feelings which may need to be loved within you. Wondering if you have snow yet? And if you’re going to get this frigid snap of weather for the next ten days? Brrrr! Stay warm if you are!

  20. sherrysescape says:

    Well, here it is, the 14th of January and I’m just now reading this – and, as usual, I admire your poetic way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. I can definitely relate and I appreciate the wisdom and acceptance you lend this whole idea of this holiday blues.

    • Kathy says:

      You know, Sherry, it’s weird. When I look back at this Christmas I don’t even remember feeling blue–except for the proof of this post. I think that when we invite our blues into a conscious place at our holiday table there can be more of a healing relaxing embrace that our pain deserves a place of love along with our happiness. ❤

  21. Reggie says:

    How strange and sad and melancholy to hear your stories of Christmas in the upper peninsula, Kathy. You live in such a different world.

    We never have snow at Christmas and New Year – we’re usually looking desperately for ways to cool down in the plus-30°C heat that makes Christmas tree candles lean gently sideways. But even though we don’t have snow, we do have Christmas trees and decorations and roast meat and vegetables and puddings, and all those lovely traditions. Happy memories.

    And of course, we’re praying that we don’t have another wildfire in the tinder-dry veld, caused by some brainless idiot who lights an emergency flare out of fun (yes, it’s a true story, alas…) – laying waste to vast hectares of beautiful fynbos and pristine forests, devouring houses and infrastructure, destroying people’s livelihoods, killing and injuring the resident wildlife, causing the death of a couple of people… We’ve had several years of drought and rising temperatures (caused by climate change, yes, it exists, despite what certain ‘experts’ say), and at this windy time of year, it doesn’t take much for the veld to go up in flames.

    We’ve often wondered what it would be like to head north for Christmas, and to spend it in the Scandinavian countries, for instance… One day, I’m sure we shall! 😉 And one day, perhaps you should come and visit South Africa, or even better, Namibia for Christmas! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Well, Reggie, I had to go back and see what I wrote! It’s interesting. Yes, there are those moments of Christmas Eve blues. But there are also so many lovely moments that I didn’t write about. Christmas morning breakfast with Barry. Steaming mugs of coffee and eggs and potatoes. A dinner with friends and meeting new friends. A half dozen laughing loving thankful phone conversations. So my “true” memory of Christmas includes it all–the melancholy, the joy, the friendship, the family, the laughter. It’s like all of the feelings and encounters really made “Christmas” quite beloved. It’s just that I wanted to acknowledge that sadness can be at our Christmas table, too, along with jolly Santa Claus and his elves. xoxoxo And wow–your offer sounds wonderful!

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