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article imageOp-Ed: To me Christmas means surviving

By Chrystal Mahan     Dec 20, 2012 in Lifestyle
Detroit - Christmas as many know it is an annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It also involves giving thanks for your blessings. To others, many other meanings exist for Christmas and what it means to them.
As a toddler, my memories are very slim. I know Christmastime was a time for gathering at my grandparents for a huge Christmas dinner. Sometimes, Santa would come and hand out presents. When we moved to Oklahoma at the age of six, that family Christmas was lost. My parents tried a few times to drive up during Christmas break, but finances were always tight and that hardly an option.
Growing up in Oklahoma as an only child, Christmas meant spending a lot of time alone. When I was younger my friends would not come outside until later in the evening. At the time, I never noticed because my aunt and uncle (and soon newborn cousin) also lived close by and they would come over to spend Christmas day with us until it was time for them to leave to visit their other family. I would play with all of my new Barbie’s and board games. I was content with that since I didn't have a lot of friends.
During this time, Christmas meant sharing gifts, laughter, and food with family. My parent's were not religious, so we never went to church.
As the years went by, friends came and went. Around 8th grade I met a girl whose family wasn’t really into celebrating the holidays. She became much like a sister me and she would be at my house every moment she could. Holidays were no different. By this time, I was no longer getting toys to play with so we would check out the new clothes or music to listen to. Her and I remained friends all through high school.
Despite these happy times, I was carrying a horrible secret. I would like to say that Christmas means a time full of love and laughter, happiness and cheer, but, I can’t. You see, for the first twelve years of my life, my dad, the one who is supposed to be my rock, took this young girl and turned her into the bitter woman she is today. He molested me for twelve years. I was 16 when I finally told my mother, 18 when they divorced. At 26 I found out he wasn’t my biological father. I did find my biological father, only to have him tell me around the holidays that he just couldn’t tell his family about me.
Christmas for some is about Santa, for others it’s about the birth of Jesus. For some, it’s something, or nothing. Christmas holds a different meaning for everyone. For me, it brings sadness.
For me, it’s also about giving. I want to give. Giving to others makes me feel the joy I missed out on as I was younger. Giving makes me feel. I have forgotten all of my childhood Christmases when the exception of a few short memories. Giving gives me new memories. That was the only thing that brought me joy.
Here I am at 37, married with a 7 year-old step-daughter and Christmas still has a lot of hurt feelings and sad memories. I try to make the best of things, but it is hard. I would rather give my time and efforts to those who really need it instead of spending money on my husband and step-daughter, neither of which need more “things.” It’s hard to find balance.
But I am finding it easier to create new, happy memories.
I’m extremely busy this holiday season. I just wrapped up a class for my graduate degree. My two week break I planned on spending the time writing and finishing some things that desperately needed to get done. Instead I find myself responsible for everyone’s Christmas; my step-daughter, my husband, my mother –law, my own mother, my father-in-law and his wife. Because of this responsibility Christmas has been more of a challenge this year compared to last year. I had a bit more help last year.
On Christmas Eve I am looking forward to giving and making memories. Having a blended family with a child who has to trade times and days during Christmas, we have to make the best out of what we are given. And that is just what I intend to do. My past is not a reflection of my present.
I know I am not alone with it comes to bad memories during the holidays. So for those of us who have them, let’s make Christmas meaningful.
I do not tell my story for people to feel pity. I tell my story to share. Over the years I have helped so many other women by sharing, and I will continue to do so. I give the gift of voice for those who are afraid to speak up. Helping others, that's Christmas to me.
Christmas means to me- survivorship, giving, and the possibility of new memories. Good, happy memories.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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