Lidia Chikhareva is contestant #15 No sweat(er)!


Lidia Chikhareva, winner of our previous contest, tells of a very special, very ugly Christmas sweater that saw her through a hard time.  While her entry is a bit long to qualify for the contest, it is a story she feels compelled to tell.  Merry Christmas!  Not too late to enter our contest:


My Ugly Christmas Sweater

by Lidia Chikhareva

I’ve never been to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, but I’ve always wanted to. I love the way it is shown in Christmas movies as it seems like a lot of fun, especially in the Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas (and yes, I am a sucker for those). Just imagine: there are people wearing the most ridiculous outfits possible, dancing to some weird beats, participating in an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest and exchanging Secret Santa gifts. When I start thinking of it, my imagination just goes wild. The whole idea of that is appealing to me: for one brief moment no one cares what they look like, but instead for once they enjoy each other’s company. No peer pressure, no society obligations; you can be as crazy as you wish. It reminds me of Halloween, because of the dressing up part, but it’s different, cause generally people don’t have to pretend to be somebody or someone else or dress to impress. The uglier the better, remember? That’s the whole point of the evening. It’s like for one second an adult can be a kid again.


So when three years ago I heard that one of the social networks was organizing an Ugly Christmas Sweater party, it felt like the fate was on my side. So I signed up for the event and went shopping. I spent almost two weeks searching until I finally found it, “the one”, the ugliest of them all Christmas Sweater. Green, fluffy, elfish, with a hood, a zipper in the middle and a huge golden star hanging next to the zipper – it was a definite shoo-in. Buying it, carrying it home, holding it in my hands I was day-dreaming, imagining myself having time of my life, dancing, laughing, taking and being taken pictures of and of course winning an Ugly Christmas Sweater contest. Well, after all I was still me, a shallow and naive girl, who had a great new job, was surrounded by friends and incredible people and believed in bright future. I miss that girl… That girl lived in her perfect little bubble and was clueless about what was about happen. She created a fantasy dream world for herself without even realizing that it was just that – a dream.


That day I woke up and was chipper: after all, it was just a couple days after my birthday and I was about to go to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party I had awaited for so long. I dressed up, packed my Ugly Christmas Sweater with me (there was no way on Earth I was going to wear THAT at the office) and then I realized that my knee was hurting. I rushed to a doctor for a quick check up as nothing was going to stop me from attending this event. It was just a split. Relieved, I went to work and turned out my boss was not exactly happy with me being late because of a medical examination. It didn’t really matter to me. I was in a great mood. And hey, I enjoyed our new height-adjusted tables – those totally rocked. And under mine I had a bag with my Ugly Christmas Sweater.


Some time after lunch my neck started hurting and by the end of my working day I had troubles opening my mouth. I didn’t give up though. Since I had a little bit of time on my hands I went to a Christmas market and ordered a crêpe with cinnamon and a cup of hot wine. Mmm…. Delicious… But I couldn’t almost swallow or talk and I still had some time left before the party, so I went to a doctor. The second time in one day. What could go wrong, right? Turns out a lot…

The doctor told me that it was rather serious, that either I underwent a surgery that evening or I‘d die… It seemed like I had no choice at the moment. While being operated on, I was hugging my Ugly Christmas Sweater. It was so warm, so fluffy, like a teddy bear and not only had it made me feel better, but also hopeful that soon I’d be there, at the party, having time of my life. I couldn’t have been more wrong…


Right after the surgery I asked that doctor if I could finally go to the Ugly Christmas Party. He laughed in my face saying that the only place I was going to party that night was a hospital room with other patents. But I was still on drugs after the surgery, unable to comprehend that. And only when anesthesia wore off and I felt a pain like never before and got fever, only then it finally hit me: there was no way on Earth I could make it to that Ugly Christmas Party! That was quite a reality check.


The next almost three weeks I spent right there, in a hospital room. People came and left, but my Ugly Christmas sweater was there for me. I hugged it, used it as a pillow cover and a blanket.  The ugliest of them all.  I missed that Ugly Christmas Party, my birthday party celebration (my birthday was on a working day, so I planned a huge party for the weekend), my name day. I’d never felt so alone before and that was the end of the world I knew, the end of me, that naive and clueless girl. Doctors’ commission insisted on me staying in the hospital during Christmas. I strongly disagreed. So I signed the papers and discharged against medical advice. The best decision I made that December three years ago. Maybe I shouldn’t have listened to those doctors in the beginning and go to that Ugly Christmas Sweater party. After all, doctors tend to overreact.

I came home, but home no longer felt like one. I had fever almost 40C. I was alone and I was frightened. I had a scar on my neck which was supposed to disappear because of some cream (I was skeptical about that). I’ll never forget my first night after the hospital. I couldn’t turn off the light. I had a fever. I was scared. Who would help me if something bad happened to me? It was just me and my Ugly Christmas Sweater.


Wow, that was three years ago…  Three whole years… Can you imagine that? I surely can’t. Time flies…  A lot has changed since then. I lost that job, as turns out my former boss found it unacceptable me telling her about my health problems. No kidding! Some of the people I thought were my friends are no longer in my life. Neither is that Ugly Christmas Sweater. Despite it helping me through tough time and me using it every time I felt awful ever since that hospital, it reminded me of all the desperation and broken dreams. So one day not so long ago I finally found some courage in me and threw away that sweater. I’ve recently also noticed that the scar has finally disappeared.


Truth to be told I’ve never been to an Ugly Christmas Sweater Party before, but three years ago I was so close to attend one…. But life happened… or shit to be exact… And now I am opening a new chapter of my life. All I need is an Ugly Christmas Sweater party to attend and a new Ugly Christmas Sweater. The Ugliest of them all….


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