So it won’t come as any surprise to anyone who knows me or has been reading this blog for a period of time that I don’t get Christmas anymore. I mean, I fundamentally don’t understand it. How the hell did we get from Baby Jesus born in a manger to chopping down perfectly good foliage and holding it captive in our homes for two weeks. (Are you vegans seriously ok with the vapid destruction of pine trees for profit?)
Anyway. Ever since I was younger and the duties of “making Christmas” fell on my head because ….aging parents…I began to abhor the holidays. I get it you Mom’s out there. The pressure put on the Alpha female in the household to pull a constant stream of glitter, tiny lights, gifts, elves and cinnamon out of your ass is such unrelenting bullshit and its exhausting. And expensive. I mean, maybe you WANT to buy your kids their entire wish list, but let’s face it, someone has to pay to legal bills to make your ex go away.
But hey, you do it for the kids, and hopefully you can keep some of the nonsense at bay. I mean, you really need to pick your battles in the west when it comes to all the hoo-ha. Holiday parties, office parties, gifting the mailman, baking cookies, kids parties, kids gifts, teachers gifts, Christmas pageants, decorating, making, baking, wrapping, buying, shopping, giving, receiving. Getting together, many giant dinners, and all the left over, clean up, putting away, throwing out, freezing, recycling. And then you get a blissful rest for about 300 days before all shit comes back again. AND FOR WHAT?
The day I saw this notice on my banking website, I have to tell you, I had a physical reaction. What the actual hell did you start here little baby Jesus?
Most acutely, it was 2006 that started my rapid descent on this holiday. Knowing it might very well be my last Christmas with two parents, (it was) and then 2007 trying to make it look like everything was fine for Dad, (it wasn’t) and then 2008 when we started to work out how to have Christmas without either of them. I eventually gave up and went to Europe one year. Then came the entire abdication of the holiday and the phone calls to family that resulted in tears when I tapped out altogether. I went to Banff, I went to Vienna, I ate alone, I ate in pubs, I ate at friends. It doesn’t matter what you do to ignore Christmas, after all the years and all the deep indoctrination, you simply can not ignore it.
So I decided this year that I would lean in to it a little. I would just accept the fact that I do not get a large portion of the rituals, and I would try to find some comfort and joy. I agreed to a trip to London in mid December. To see the lights. To revel in the merry making. And it turned out to be pretty ok.
I learned that if you attached no meaning to it at all, Christmas is a time of flavors and colours. You get to see shiny things with lots of fairy lights and glistening balls. A decor style that is only acceptable once a year. Mid century modern, modern maximalist, and hygge are all styles you can pull out anytime of the year. Lasting and enduring looks for the home. But “Christmas sparkle” is time-bound and you have to enjoy it while it lasts. (And please, hangers-on, it has an expiration date! Take the damn tree down before Valentine’s Day. PLEASE.) It’s nice. I enjoyed the decor, the little vignettes of seasonal goodness. It was heartwarming. Leaning In Step One – complete. Don’t question. Don’t try to make sense of it. Just enjoy.
Then there are the flavours. The mincemeat pie, nutmeg, chocolate, the Christmas puddings, the baked goods. All the special things that only appear at this time of year. Like pumpkin pie in October. I tasted the flavours and enjoyed them. I got a little over loaded at the food halls at Fortnum and Mason filled to the absolute brim with decorative tins and fancy boxes filled with gifts to be purchased (at an extraordinary price) for people who expect their due. But I looked past that. I tasted, I moved on. It was delightful.
Then there are the Christmas sounds. I have been watching a few poorly produced Christmas movies on Netflix, and some old classics. I don’t seek to understand why every one of them has to have a Prince figure and a lost soul looking for love. I mean – Jesus (the baby not the curse word), the trees, the gifts, the foods, the decor, and now romantic LOVE is piling on as a theme for the season. Can’t we move those to February? Anyway. Whatever. I’ve watched some and they give me a nice warm feeling in my belly and I moved on.
I tried listening to some Christmas music on Spotify and that went downhill in a hurry. There are some really awful songs out there. Back to 2018-under-the-breath-daily-utterance, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” (re: social media).
And then, maybe because I leaned in and the Universe wanted to reward me, or maybe because the statute of limitation on an empty Christmas tree is 10 years, or maybe because I really was nice this year instead of naughty….. a Christmas miracle happened. GIFTS. I am not even kidding. I can’t tell you the physical feeling of utter joy that occurs when, after 10 or 12 years, I received some gifts that I did not ask for, had no expectations of and did not even give anything in return. You guys….GIFTS. I cried for a full day. I’m not kidding. COULD NOT STOP CRYING. Like a baby with PMS after watching a sad Christmas movie.
(Not the top one. That’s an empty box set for shipping)
So, here’s what happened. A beautiful friend of mine decided to send me a care package. I might be aware of some things inside as I did make general wish requests, but I really have no idea what’s in there. It arrived on Friday at the post office and I went to collect it. Last day before the holidays. (But not really because its business as usual here of course).
I also received a box of books from a woman who was on one of our tours this year. After hearing that English paperbacks are a real treat because they have to be brought in from outside and no one ever spends weight allowances on them, she offered to send me a box. It arrived on Friday.
I also noticed a small surprise wrapped in brown paper has appeared near my Christmas elf from a dear friend. THREE surprises for Christmas. Too much to ask for. I mean, I have always enjoyed the stocking on Christmas morning that my beautiful friend Sandra would gift me when I popped over for Christmas breakfast, but it’s been a few years since then. Imagine receiving THREE packages, no clue what is inside, and for me! At Christmas. I’m dying a little.
I have also enjoyed making a point of getting together for the season with friends that are here. Tonight, for Christmas Eve, I will join some friends for a festive special fancy dinner. Tomorrow a lunch date with a friend to celebrate the season. And that is a wrap. What a great year.
I have learned this. Its a good time of year to enjoy the flavours, the colours, the look, the friends and loved ones with whom you can spend time. Its a nice time of the year to stop what you are doing, step off the fast moving freight train and pause. Sit. Have a drink, enjoy a movie, relax, rest, and celebrate making it through another year. Just calm down for a day or two.
Reflect on what is staying behind as part of this past year, and what is going forward with you into the new one. Appreciate the ones you love. Feel sorrow and loss for the ones you don’t have anymore, (or for right now at least). But remember them and hold them dear just the same. And then put away the damn tree and come out fighting in the new year like the boss bitch that you are.
My love and best wishes for a meaningful and heartfelt season to each of you. May it be as painless as possible, as short or as long as it needs to be for you, but may you find somewhere in this month of madness, a small sparkle of warmth and love.