Dedicated to my friend Belish, whose festive joy dissolved my Christmas crankies.
I’m a bah humbugger from way back.
“My dad died in December!” I declare in justification. That was 16 years ago, by the way.
“I have to work over Christmas! I don’t have children so what’s the point! Christmas is a stupid commercial celebration that celebrates capitalism and results in unnecessary debt and plastic consumerism unwanted toys spoiled Western children countries blah blah I hate it.”
I might also add that I’ve spent a few Decembers with uncomfortable feelings, filling my face with the nachos of loneliness or crying into excessive boozy beverages. I am blessed to have been invited to Christmas celebrations with friends’ families, but they have mostly served to remind me of my own fractured family relationships, and tend to leave me feeling more lonely.
I may have even started feeling like I was pretty cool and edgy for hating Christmas.
Maybe I wasn’t that cool
Talking to an overseas friend last week, she mentioned Christmas, and her tone was giddy-excited. She started gushing over how much Christmas stuff she had, how great her apartment looked decorated, and how she couldn’t WAIT to make everything feel festive. She would send me photos of her place once it was decorated, she said, and then I’d understand.
I started on my traditional Christmas bah humbug rant, but… suddenly it didn’t seem that cool anymore.
Who wants to be the rain on someone’s festive parade?
I realised that a) I would rather be excited and happy like her than grumpy and cynical like me, and b) I had a choice.
And this year, I have chosen to be excited and happy.
I’ll still be working on Christmas and Boxing Day, I still won’t be seeing friends or family, and I may be eating nachos for one again, but this time I’m gonna do it with fairy lights on my balcony and Mariah Carey blasting from my UE Boom. I may even adorn my lobes with candy canes for that classy holiday aesthetic.
Making December joyous
If you are surrounded by loving family and friends for the festive season and Christmas is an uncomplicated celebration of joy and togetherness, more power to you! You probably don’t even need this article. Feel free to skim it, or, use it as an insight into how others close to you might be feeling at this time of year. Don’t forget to check in on friends that might be having a hard time.
If you’re alone for Christmas, the constant barrage of “family togetherness” messages can be brutal. If you’re with family, you may still be subject to the stresses of intrafamily conflict, financial struggles, pressure to provide or prepare in certain ways, or any number of other challenges.
When I was young, our Christmas traditions included family lunch at our place. Mum would present a plate of seafood, cold cuts, and store-bought dips, limiting her involvement to opening a box of Jatz and chopping up a few carrot sticks, and then contentedly chat her way through the afternoon, glass of Sir James sparkling in hand. Our presents were usually practical in nature and never extravagant, and my mother took mischievous joy in making a donation to a village in a developing country through World Vision and presenting the certificate of this donation to her family in lieu of Christmas presents.
If the point of Christmas is the spirit of togetherness, why are so many people going into debt to buy presents or struggling through high-stress preparations and cleaning up? Are there places you need to cut back or set boundaries to improve your own enjoyment?
Letting go of expectations
Despite what marketing campaigns would tell you, there is more than one way to spin a Christmas hat. As with all things in life, if you compare yourself with the ideal shown in advertising (happy, loving, smiling families with perfect homes and food and well-behaved children and not a single drunk racist uncle), you may find good reason to hate it all. But if you dust off this barrage of messages about what Christmas “should” be and the ways in which you don’t have it or don’t like it, you’re free to start over and do things your way.
Make your own meaning and traditions
The imposed meaning of Christmas is hard to avoid, of course. Family gatherings, gift-giving, and religious traditions are pervasive and widely accepted.
But here’s the thing… you can make your own meaning and your own traditions.
If you’re alone, you may wish to band together with other solo friends to make your own celebrations, have a picnic, or take a trip together.
One year I volunteered at a lunch for the homeless, which was a delightful way to participate in the spirit of giving.
I’m writing this from the beachfront restaurant of a guesthouse where I’ve taken a solo holiday. I’ve had a busy year and I work over Christmas, so I’ve decided to make my own tradition of taking a week off every December to recoup and go wherever I want and do whatever the heck I feel like (today I want to write about Christmas so here we are).
What do YOU want to do?
Imagine me as your festive fairy godmother, touching you with my magic merry wand. WISH = GRANTED! You are now free to spend the holidays however you want. The power is yours!
Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays to you, my friends.
May your baubles by shiny, your fairy lights garish, and your Mariah Carey loud and pervasive.
The holiday season can be challenging, particularly for those with pre-existing mental or emotional challenges. If you’re considering finding a supporter to help you recover your own festive spirit, get in touch with us today for a free consultation call.