The shimmering snow, the sparkle of Christmas lights, the joy of family and friends gathering and laughing, and holiday classics blasting on the radio may bring delight to those that love the Christmas season.
But, this time of the year is not necessarily “The Most Wonderful Time of The Year” and some people don’t see it as a “Holly Jolly Christmas”.
No, I’m not depressed over the loss of my job or despondent over our first Christmas without Miss ABBA. I have so many cherished memories of her that she is still with us. And, I’m fortunate enough to have loved ones that I’m getting to go on a fantastic Christmas cruise with next week.
However, I know that all is not “merry and bright” for many people who feel they have very little to live for or to be thankful for. And, this is why I’m talking about it today and I hope that you’ll continue reading.
In Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol”, Scrooge is visited by the “Ghost of Christmas Past”. He’s not alone. A lot of us are also visited by the ghosts of loved ones that have gone before us.
Many people think that suicide rates skyrocket during Christmas. There are many studies that prove that is not the case. However, in 2010, more than 38,000 Americans committed suicide (that’s 105 a day) and another estimated one million people in the U.S. attempted to take their own life. Men are much more likely to end their life (79%). And, suicide is the third leading cause of death of people ages 15-24, but in the 25-34 age range, it moves up to second.
The reality, and the point I want to make, is that one suicide or one attempt is one too many!
Holiday or not, if you, or someone you suspect, might be thinking of doing something irrational, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
There’s also the Trevor Project, a national organization that provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. That number is:
HOLLYWOOD CHRISTMAS DEPRESSION
In this scene from one of the most iconic, holiday standards, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George Bailey, a man who put his dreams on the back burner to keep the family business alive and to raise his own family, reached the point on Christmas Eve that he thought that everyone would be better off if he were dead. He was ready to jump off a bridge and end his life.
Clarence, an angel working on getting his wings, was sent down from heaven to try to prevent that tragedy.
The movie is a true tear-jerker. I cry each time I watch it. It’s not George’s attempted suicide that gets to me, it’s this note from Clarence that turns on the water works for me.
There are other holiday movies that I absolutely love that are mostly sad. “Prancer” is one of them.
This 1989 movie tells the story of a young girl, Jessica, trying to be happy at Christmas following the death of her mother. Her father has fallen on hard times and he wants Jessica to go live with her aunt because he feels she could offer the youngster a better life.
One day, she discovers an injured deer and is convinced that it’s one of Santa’s and that she must get it well in time for Christmas.
At one point, Jessica threatens to run away from home and even wishes she were dead. Pretty heavy stuff for an 8-year-old!
It’s a must-see movie.
And, since 2008, there’s also another bleak movie that I watch several times each season. Some people may be put off just by the provocative cover of “The Houseboy”.
The movie focuses on Ricky, a young man living in New York City. In the opening scene, we learn that he’s in a relationship as the third person in a couple’s long-term relationship and the couple wants a “new toy”. Ricky is no longer wanted.
He’s also estranged from his family back in North Carolina after he came out to them at Thanksgiving. In a phone conversation, his religious sister gives him the “love the sinner, just not the sin” speech and that she doesn’t know if his mother would ever accept Ricky being gay.
When the couple goes away to Los Angeles for the week, Ricky is left to house sit and take care of the cats, the hamsters, the rabbits, the fish, and water the Christmas tree.
To Ricky, who is despondent over the rejection from his family and, now, his gay “surrogate” family, the only solution is to kill himself on Christmas Eve by overdosing on a bowl of pills.
As we watch Ricky’s depression build that week up to that fateful decision to end it all on Christmas Eve, we see him engage in unprotected casual sex and being used by others just for them to have a place for a drug-fueled orgy. In one haunting scene, Ricky talks to a tweaked out kid writing his mother’s phone number on his foot with a marker in case he overdoses, they’d know who to call.
“The Houseboy” is very thought-provoking and I know many people will never see it because it’s a gay movie with drugs and promiscuous sex. And, that’s a shame, because it does have a subplot like “It’s A Wonderful Life” that features hot chocolate and mistletoe that will leave you with a smile and a sigh of relief after almost 80 minutes of sadness.
SADNESS IN CHRISTMAS SONGS, TOO
We even find sadness permeating in many holiday songs. There’s Elvis’ classic, “Blue Christmas”, Willie Nelson sings about homelessness in “Pretty Paper”, and Reba sings about divorce in “Santa Claus Is Coming Back To Town”.
Why did I include, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” here? That’s cheery, right?
When the song was written for the 1944 musical, “Meet Me In St. Louis”, Judy Garland and others on the movie said the song’s original lyrics were depressing. They asked writer Hugh Martin to change some of the lyrics to make it happier.
One of the changes was “It may be your last/Next year we may all be living in the past” became “Let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight”.
In November 1984, a group of mostly English musicians got together to record a song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, a country located in eastern Africa. From 1983-1985, it’s estimated that 8 million people were affected by famine brought on by drought conditions and war and that about one million of them died from starvation.
The superstar recording organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure included Boy George, Culture Club, Duran Duran, George Michael, Spandau Ballet, Sting, Bono, U2, Paul Young, Phil Collins, Bananarama, Jody Watley, Kool & The Gang, Kiss, Marilyn, Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes To Hollywood, and many others.
The song topped the charts in many countries and the following summer, a concert, Live Aid, continued to raise money for famine relief. Sadly, it’s estimated that more than 56,000 tons of food sent to Africa rotted because it couldn’t get to people desperately needing it.
Five years later, another recording of the song by Band Aid II was released and it hit #1 and raised more money. And, Band Aid 20, in 2004, did the same. But, neither of the last two re-recordings reached the success of the original.
“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is still one of my all-time favorites. The lines “And it’s a world of dreaded fear/Where the only water flowing is a bitter sting of tears/And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom/Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you /And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time/The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life” still give me chills today.
If you’re still reading this, I appreciate it. It isn’t one of my most bubbly, fun blogs. However, it’s a reality faced by many.
So, when you’re out and about and you pass someone on the streets or in the stores (it should be everyday and not just at the holidays), smile and say, “hello”. That simple act of kindness may be that person’s lifeline.