60 Days of Blue (blue-blue-blue) Christmas
Me and my boyfriend put up our Christmas tree on October 27th.
He told me it had snowed in Punavuori that morning and it had made him feel Christmassy. So he wanted to go check out the Stocka Christmas boutique that had been opened earlier that same week, and we went. We got one ornament each: his, a silvery glittered bird that reflects so many colours looking at it feels like walking into Oz; mine, a pastel pink unicorn riding on a pink glitter bauble with feathers on it.
Should have realised that buying campy Christmas ornaments is a gateway drug, but I didn’t, and the whole thing just snowballed.
‘Where do we have these,’ says the hardware store clerk to her colleague, pointing at the info-desk computer screen.
‘At the very back, obviously. Top shelf,’ says the colleague, and the clerk excuses herself to go look for the package.
We’re standing in the hardware store, waiting for the clerk to bring us our 150cm plastic Christmas tree and it starts to feel like self-care. Something similar to buying vitamins. At the end of each year, Christmas decorations never seem to fail to make me feel better about the darkening days. I used to be fine in October and pretty much throughout the winters, but the past few years the darkness has really been getting to me. Sometimes, I just get sad, and that is my preferred term. My boss called his sad ‘the winter blues’ and I resent that a little bit: ‘blues’ makes it sound like it has a rhythm to it, and It. Does. Not. It’s one continuous note that manages to sound out of tune even with no melody or accompaniment around it.
The terms Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD, all capitals!) and seasonal depression also get their fair share of use in everyday speech like they’re just a few more ways to say you’re sad. But the kind of hibernal sadness that I’m talking about is the general feeling of wanting to stay in bed for a few minutes longer, listen to Mitski all day and drink glögi before it’s socially acceptable (October? July?) because it’s dark outside.
To use the capitalised SAD to describe what I go through in the winter would be less as an acronym for a mood disorder and more just to shout the word out loud (my SADness doesn’t really stand for anything, but it is LOUD!) I don’t really feel a need for bright light therapy, I’ll feel better looking at the lights on my off-seasonal Christmas tree; I’ll get through the winter with vitamin D and don’t need a prescription for anything stronger. And I don’t bring this up to somehow set myself above or apart from people who do need those things, I’m just saying maybe I shouldn’t appropriate language meant to describe their specific brand of sad. While I might get sad, my sadness can be alleviated by a Christmas tree and not everyone’s can.
So I don’t really have a name for my sadness – we’re not that friendly, really. That’s why I’m politely asking it to leave with a lit-up plastic spruce in my living room.
The clerk comes back with the package. ‘I found a 180cm one for you!’ she says, and though it’s not what we asked for (the website said they didn’t have the larger size) and though it’s a few euros more expensive, we’re glad that she realised that the 30 extra centimetres make all the difference. Like the good Finn I am, I had been feeling embarrassed for her having to go all the way to the back of beyond just so I can get my therapy tree in October, but all of it is gone when she says: ‘I just ordered my 180cm one, it’s in the mail. I’m just going to overdose on Christmas this year!’ She gets it.
Some hours later, I have All I Want For Christmas Is You playing in the background (Merryah Careystmas, everyone!) and our tree is up. It is boho-chic, the ornaments are mix-and-mismatch. It’s an anything-is-an-ornament kind of tree. I spent one-plus hours tying little pieces of string onto a whole bunch of glittered pinecones we got from Tokmanni to hang them from the branches. More recently, I stuck a bunch of differently coloured gift-wrapping ribbons on the tree. The DIY ornaments don’t seem to belong there on the tree, but I like them. I’ve had this small reindeer plushie (that’s also a fridge magnet) since I was 6 or so, and I tried to use it as the topper (I wrapped its little magnet arms and legs around the top and it looked like it was hugging it). It was too heavy and made the top arch downwards – and I left it like that for a few days anyway.
You know that one episode of Friends where Monica does one half of the tree and it’s perfect, and the rest of the bunch decorates the other side and it’s a hot tinselled mess, and then she just turns their side to face the wall? Guess which side of the tree is ours.
We didn’t have proper lights to put on the tree either, you know the kind that look like candles? Instead, we used two bundles of yellow LED fairy lights and a set of differently coloured Clas Ohlson light bulbs. It’s an unorthodox form of light therapy. My mom has one of those SAD bright lights, and it is a big one – it looks like a distorted 4:1 scale model of an all white milk carton and at full power it’s enough to fill the entire kitchen plus dining area with eerie white light – straight from an alien abduction scene from The X-Files. It is creepy for sure, but if you put your mind to it (like, really try), the one billion lux SAD light emulates the blinding blaze of a field of snow pretty well. A real winter snowfield.
And that’s akin to how my tree works too: it makes the room feel like how winter feels. For me, winter is all about Christmas, and the tree’s assortment of lights and garlands bring a little piece of it to me, two months early.
It’s no holiday miracle though: I don’t actually believe that the tree is magically going to make my sad disappear just like that. I still listen to Mitski and Tori Amos and drink a gallon of glögi a week. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t enjoy those things for themselves, not just to defer the darkness outside for a minute. I’m also finding more ways to deal with the darkness and feeling better every day. Maybe it’s less about the tree and more about just getting used to the darkness and adjusting my routines. Maybe hurrying up Christmas by putting up the tree so early makes the winter feel shorter and invites spring to come sooner. Whatever it is, putting up the tree is me, doing a thing: Doing one concrete thing to represent my resistance against my winter sadness; doing something that makes me feel good to set off a snowball of good things.
So if you’re feeling even a little bit crummy about the winter too, and the odds are that you are, try doing a thing. Put up your tree, or some Christmas lights. Eat a gingerbread-person. (Can’t imagine why you would want to, but you can also choose to do a Christmas-unrelated thing. The world is your box of Vihreät kuulat.)
I realise that some people think it’s still too early for wishing happy holidays. But for me, the season’s been jolly and getting jollier for the better part of two months.
So Happy Holidays, everyone – the full 60 days worth.
(Illustration credit: Charles Edward Faxon)