Peace. Love. Joy. All words we associate with Christmas, a time of year when millions the world over celebrate the birth of Christ or the arrival of Santa. A time when people look forward to gathering with loved ones to share holiday cheer.
But Christmas isn’t so merry for many. A lot of us suffer from the Christmas blues. I don’t mean clinical depression, a medical illness that demands professional medical attention, or the sadness and grief many feel during the holidays as they remember lost loved ones or deal with family estrangement or cope with being alone and lonely during a time of year second only to Valentine’s Day for its emphasis on being with “someone special.” I mean that blah feeling some of us suffer when all the holly-jolly becomes too much to bear. Joy overload. We hit a wall where we don’t want to hang one more ornament on the tree, put up one more string of lights, or stuff one more stocking. We crave home décor that’s not red, green, plaid, or emblazoned with whimsical woodland creatures. If you’ve ever envisioned hiding the Elf on the Shelf in the garbage disposal—head down—with the switch on—you know what I mean. We conceal these unseasonal thoughts lest friends, family, and co-workers label us socially unacceptable. But sometimes, when we’re all alone and no one, not even the rotund man-child who hangs out in the Arctic playing with elves, is watching we give vent to our inner grinch.
Books often provide an escape from the all-consuming merry brightness of the holiday season. Google “Christmas murder mystery novels” and you’ll find enough tales of holiday homicide to keep you going until Easter. Even icons from the golden age of mystery, like Agatha Christie and Ngaio Marsh, weren’t above killing off a few revelers during fatal festivities. I just listened to Hugh Fraser narrate Christie’s Hercule Poirot’s Christmas. This was right after I’d listened to Patrick Stewart narrate Dickens’, A Christmas Carol, which, except for the bit at the end, is actually a very dark story. Now that I’ve quieted my bah humbug I can sing along with Christmas carols on the car radio, cry during heartfelt holiday movies, and celebrate the joy of the season that prompts us to be a little bit more generous toward our fellow human beings than we are the other eleven months of the year.
And if you really were imagining a certain elfin spy stuffed into an In-sink-erator you’re not alone. “Ways to destroy Elf on the Shelf” generated more than four million results on Google, including a You Tube video and a NSFW Pinterest page.