Holiday Wishes



Holidays are a strange time. For some, they are a joyous occasion involving  a celebration of gifts, family, and friendship. For others, they take a dark turn. Holidays can be a devastating time. You hear joyous music, you see bright lights, and you see the glow on children’s faces that can only be the prelude to material gluttony. Unfortunately, not everyone is in on the game. Some people don’t have families and friends, at least nearby. Some cannot afford to take part in the all-you-care-to-eat buyer’s buffet. For those people, the holidays are less about what they are about to get, and more about what they feel they will never have.

I’ve been on multiple sides of the holiday season. My family celebrates all holidays pretty much the same way. We plug Crock Pots full of casseroles, baked beans, mashed potatoes, and turkey into overloaded networks of power strips. We praise each other’s culinary achievements and avoid that weird marshmallow salad that is inexplicably topped with cheese. In the glory days, there would be as many as sixty or seventy people at lunch. That number has fallen, via emigration from the rural area in which my parents live, and the inevitable overturn of generations.

Last year, my grandfather, a huge influence on my life, died shortly before Christmas. I broke up with my girlfriend right before I went home, after a newfound realization of the terminal nature of life, and distaste for my own overall unhappiness with my life, in general. When I returned home, to my newly empty house, I unwrapped presents with my son, alone.

My day job has likely cost me as much as it has earned. Its stressful nature contributed to at least a couple failed relationships and missed holidays. Sometimes, I just can’t go home. When you find yourself sitting home, by yourself, when everyone else is with the people that matter to them, it is easy to lose hope. That is hard to explain to people who have never cooked a full Thanksgiving dinner for one.

Retail stores are brutally busy, and some shoppers’ actions make you question any possibility of the holidays being a season of happiness. They certainly don’t appear happy, standing in endless lines, on progressively earlier days, elbowing each other for sixty percent off camcorders.

Still, at the base, the holidays are about good wishes and fresh starts.  We wish for the things we don’t have, and hope we will obtain them. We wish happiness for our friends and family, and hope that clearance camcorder will bring a small dose of happiness to them. We wish for a better life full of food, friends, lights, and song. For awhile, some have it.

The holidays are a celebration of humanity. You walk into January with a bunch of stuff you didn’t really need, bloated from food you never should have eaten, swearing you are going to make it all better now that the holidays are over. Nothing can be more human that wanting to make yourself better.

I celebrate that I have that chance. I try to remember those who don’t. And once in a while, regardless of whether the holiday was good, bad, or simply there, I potentially get a great story out of it.

As a writer, I can’t wish for much more than that.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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