Christmas is often known for being a cheery, magical time of year. It’s when families and friends get together to celebrate and, often, reminisce over the past year, since New Year’s isn’t long after. Christmas season is celebrated by Christians as the birth of Christ, the working-world as a day or two off work, children as a time they get gifts, and families as a chance to reunite. However, while many see this season as “the most wonderful time of the year”, others see it as a strain on their wallets, stress levels, or ability to dance around touchy topics at all the holiday parties that get crammed into a couple of weeks.
Flicking on episode 7 of Cheer Danshi!!, I found it becoming a Christmas episode about halfway through when a team member suggested a team Christmas party. I expected a semi-typical anime-style Christmas episode with a happy party being celebrated by all the team members, with everyone having a good time. I got that… kind of. Rather, I got a Christmas party that was going perfectly, right up until someone snapped. Tensions over an issue that had built up from a previous episode finally boiled over. For “cheer boys” they weren’t acting very cheery after that. The episode’s title, “Strain”, suddenly made a lot more sense.
The reason I remembered this Christmas episode was because I found myself honestly shocked. I’ve become so used to that happy party or gathering with a cheery celebration being the typical Christmas episode for anime, this one surprised me. I don’t think that’s all too far off from the reality of Christmas sometimes, though. It’s been played up into such a big, perfect holiday – and people have almost an unspoken expectation to make sure theirs follows suit – that people forget Christmas can cause problems in its own ways, too.
The holiday season can become expensive. Gifts for loved ones, baking or cooking supplies for the dish you’ve promised to bring for a party, and Secret Santa gifts all add up. Not to mention, in the flurry of everything going on, it’s easy to forget how much you’ve racked up until you get your credit card statement in January. Stress levels run high; maybe you’re feeling pressure to host a perfect party, or choose a perfect gift, or keep up that “perfect Christmas” image I mentioned earlier. Not only that, but New Year’s turns it into a double-whammy on your wallet and planning abilities.
It’s easy to see how things can add up and become a strain. The one I want to briefly focus on, however, is people. Yup, good ol’ social interaction. After all, Christmas tends to be full of that. Whether it’s work parties and awkwardly chatting about the weather with co-workers you barely know, or family meet-ups with family members you don’t know well or just don’t see eye-to-eye with. Initially, it may be easy to lighten up and cheer up in the name of the “Christmas spirit”. The carefree atmosphere can sometimes lead to people becoming a little bit too comfortable at times and saying a bit too much. After all, there’s an unspoken rule to keep up certain airs at Christmas time to make sure no one could possibly become upset or insulted!
In Cheer Danshi!!, one person’s light-hearted, off-hand comment is the final straw for someone else who was, up until that point, doing an okay job of relaxing despite feeling out of place in the environment. That one comment was too much to ignore, though, and it sparked a fight. After the upset individual stormed out, the party mood was ruined. In fact, one team member even comments that “This is the worst Christmas bash ever.” That outburst, while it ruins one Christmas party, ultimately brings the team closer than ever, because they worry less about a “ruined” party and more about what caused the problem.
Real-life Christmastime sometimes works the same way. Someone is worried about what they’ve spent and snaps at someone else over a comment about money, another person feels unappreciated because their recipe or dish is perhaps refused by a picky eater, and someone else feels hurt because of a careless comment that they find insulting (right now, political differences in opinion is a great example of this). It’s always unfortunate if this kind of thing ruins what’s supposed to be a good memory for someone – or everyone – involved…. But, I genuinely think that too often people get too caught up in these things just because it happens during the holidays. Arguments or problems that crop up around the rest of the year seem to be passed off as normal far more easily than when people admit their holidays aren’t something out of a made-for-TV cheesy Christmas movie (not dissing those, I love them).
So what that it’s Christmas holidays? That doesn’t mean you must have everything sorted out perfectly, gift-wrapped with a bow on top. Life doesn’t work that way. The awesome part is, while Christmas and New Year’s herald in the end of one year, they also mark the beginning of a new one. They’re an awesome time not only to reflect on the year that’s passed but to set goals for the one to come. That’s why if the Christmas strain hits a little too hard, it’s not the end of the world. How you decide to move on after the holidays is what counts. Cut back on spending where you can or pick up some extra hours at work in January to pay off Christmas bills. Retry that recipe if you’re really worried about the person’s opinion. Have an honest chat with the person who unintentionally insulted you and be honest.
Rather than getting bogged down by the hectic holiday traditions and expectations, try to just enjoy things. After all, the focus of Christmas ought not to be about keeping up appearances, but about remembering Christ’s birth, spending time with loved ones, reconnecting with distant friends, and enjoying the little bit of whimsy that a beautiful blend of Christmas lights and snow seems to herald in. So what if your Christmas isn’t perfect? Like the team in Cheer Danshi!! quickly learns, while having a bad memory is no fun, it’s what you decide to do about it that really counts! Make the most of what you’ve got in your own way, and celebrate this Christmas season in whatever way doesn’t bring about Christmas strain.