It happens every year: I catch myself saying, with varying level of drama, “I HATE CHRISTMAS!”

My husband points out, every year, that this simply isn’t true. “You know you love it,” he gently reminds me.

He has a point. I don’t really HATE Christmas. In fact, it is at Midnight Mass—or thanks to the memory of it on the years we can’t attend—that I find myself really accepting the truth of the Incarnation, being struck by the wonder, smiling at the beauty of the Baby in the manger.

And that brings us to precisely what I hate when I say, often vehemently, I hate Christmas.

I hate Advent turning into Christmas. I hate Christmas ending when the clock strikes midnight and the calendar turns to the 26th. I hate feeling like I’m speaking a foreign language when I suggest that Christmas parties would be fun—and more appropriate—in the week following Christmas.

Christmas is a season, but the season doesn’t actually begin until December 25. Though our retail empires try to get us in the “spirit” earlier and earlier, all hearing carols in October does for me is make me harrumph and bah-humbug even sooner than usual.

Recently, a dear friend, in a fit of what I assume was frustration, looked at me and asked, “Can’t you get past yourself? It’s CHRISTMAS!”

Well, my analytical brain responded, it actually IS NOT Christmas…and then it hit me.

I place a bigger expectation on Christmas than what anyone can make it deliver. It’s not until I place myself humbly before the poor, helpless Baby that I realize that it’s not about me.

It never was. And it’s not supposed to be.

To that friend, thank you. To my family, thank you. And to that Baby, THANK YOU.

I’ll struggle my way through Advent, trying to fight the uphill battle against misplacing the meaning of the season. And as I journey through Advent this year, I’m going to remember the penance and try the impossible task of not railing against what isn’t really Christmas at all.

This “Finding Faith in Everyday Life” column originally appeared in The Catholic Times

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