The year-end holidays are not an easy time for many of us, hence the power of “Blue Christmas.” Yes, most of us know the Elvis Presley song of the same name (written by Billy Hayes and Jay W. Johnson), and that is probably the most famous secular reference for the term:
I’ll have a blue Christmas without you
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won’t be the same, dear, if you’re not here with me
And when those blue snowflakes start falling
That’s when those blue memories start calling
You’ll be doin’ all right with your Christmas of white
There is also, however, a growing Western Christian association with the concept. Wikipedia notes that Blue Christmas worship services are also called the “Longest Sleep,” and obviously adapt (as the Christians did for so many of the church holidays) the pagan traditions around the Winter Solstice. These churches hold services that recognize that the holidays can be “‘blue’ or filled with difficult feelings around painful life events such as death, disease, poverty, or abuse…” (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Christmas_(holiday)
This year, I personally lost my sister-in-law and my aunt. Both died of gynecological cancers (ovarian and breast) and both had their tragic elements to them: as one died at the age of 59, and the other within a year of her sister’s death, making it that much harder for the family.
I also lost her sister, my mother, in the fall of 2018 after her long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. She lived with us for most of the last five years of her life. The Christmas season was her favorite time of the year and Christmas Eve was her favorite day of the year. I only ever missed two Christmas mornings with my mom, when I was living overseas in my 20’s.
Surprisingly, I am finding that this year I am hit especially hard by grief. Last year there was much “business of grief” work to handle; this year I am haunted, missing her terribly, and looking around at the Christmas caroler collection and her favorite holiday CDs through bouts of tears and sadness.
To that end, I’ve dug up my Lensbaby Composer. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lensbaby. If you’ve never used one of these little flexible, plastic lenses, they are a trip… You attach them to your camera and they have a ball and socket design that allows you to wiggle them around in all directions for various blurring effects because of the tilted plane. There are focus drop-in rings of various f-stops you can insert on the front of them for some depth-of-field.
Now, finding the sweet spot for focus can be quite a challenge, but I like the bizarre, ethereal nature of the images that come with the lens. Death and grief and suffering are hard, mysterious, often foggy feelings. With some Picasso-inspired editing from Lightroom (I’ve always found his Blue Period work after the suicide of his good friend very moving), I’m seeing what emerges from this holiday season.
If you have a creative passion of your own, and you too are feeling some “Longest Day” or “Blue Christmas” feelings of your own, I hope you use your creative outlet to help you dig deep and find the love and joy that lie under the longing and loss…