This year marks the third year I’ll be spending the holidays abroad.

My first year, I got to spend it with my sister, her “other”, my other sister, and her family (I actually think of them as part of  “my” family too, but we’ll keep that as our little secret). That was a fun time until we all started getting on each other’s nerves. The -14 degree weather didn’t help. Still, although I wasn’t at home (home is where mom is after all) I felt like I was, and I think we all had a good time.

I had looked forward to spending Christmas on my own. 2012 would be the first time, ever, that I had nothing special to do. No family, no boyfriends, nothing. I was curious to see what it would be like. Not that I don’t enjoy spending time with my family. I do. I wish we could spend that family time at other times of the year too, with no tension, no fights, no expectations, no sense that we are more religious or happier than we actually are, and instead, spend it enjoying each other’s company, as we so often (don’t) have a chance to.

Christmas is my absolutely least favorite holiday of the year.

That’s right. I said it. I HATE it. Every year is marred by random family tension, fights about bullshit,  lack of money, pressure to buy expensive gifts (I’m a cheap bastard at heart, I hate Christmas shopping), and a general feeling that its built up so much every year that the only way to go is down. Christmas, for me, is a depressing time of year. I can’t remember the last time I truly looked forward to Christmas. I don’t know if it’s all the sappy commercialism in the States, the expectations of good times and good cheer, the overly idealized movies that play on TV, the random family members that try to ram their religion down my throat or what.

The happiest Christmas, as an adult, I remember having was in 2002. For the first time in years, my entire family was present.  We were all younger (a whole 10 years younger, in fact), I was still in college, I had a new boyfriend, and I was very much in love. Although that year had marked a couple of tragedies, to me the world was still bright, shiny, and new. We even had our cousins up for the week, which was the one and only time they ever came. It was awesome. I remember chicken wings at Bdubs, hanging out with everyone at the same time. Huge family dinners with more people than ever before, mom’s delicious Polish traditional cooking, hanging out after, and, if memory serves me right, that was also the year we actually had an unexpected visitor knocking at our door.  All kinds of memories.  It was so special that year.

So, yeah. In my own, vaguely melancholy, I’m missing-my-family kind of way, I had looked forward to spending 2012  on my own. In a sort of free from presents, from good cheer, and pretending we are all so much happier-than-we-actually-are sort of way.

Last year, I spent it with some ex-pat friends. We boozed it up at a house party and then hit the Taiwan Brewery to get drunk some more. It was fun, but for me there was an element of wistfulness. For one thing, two people puked (not me). I was surrounded by people I had known, at best, for three or four months, and somehow boozing it up just didn’t seem like the holidays. Let’s face it, I can booze it up anytime I want, and I sometimes do, so how could that be special? It was the coldest day of the year in Taiwan last Christmas Eve, and although it was in the forties, and people in the North were envious, let me just tell you…it was cold. Damn cold. I was wearing two pairs of socks and had to borrow some ski socks on top of it because I couldn’t get warm. We sat around, and I pretended to learn how to play mahjong while sucking down beer and shots.

I did not learn how to play mahjong that night.

This year…well. I don’t know.

Of course, the requisite parties will all have to be hit, beginning with tomorrow, and one or two more next weekend, but Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, and I will be spending it at work. Because I live in Taiwan after all, and though I could probably ask for it off, there just doesn’t seem to be a good reason to.

I will say this about Christmas in Taiwan: if you’re not christian, this is definitely the place to be. This is only the second year I’ve ever lived somewhere where Christmas wasn’t a big deal.  I think I like it.

Trust me. I don’t miss the canned twenty-year-old Christmas songs that start playing on November first ever year (except for Feliz Navidad, how can you not love that song?)  And I don’t miss…oh damn. Wait. I just realized I like a few other Christmas songs too. Shit.

Ok well. That doesn’t matter.

…As I was saying, screw Christmas. That’s the message I’m trying to send here.

I’ll update you on the rest of the Christmas cheer next week.