Christmas

It’s almost exactly a month until Christmas. I have to admit it’s not a time of year I treasure. The more uppity I get about climate change, the more Christmas bothers me. All the twinkling lights and excessive decorating and manic gift buying – it all just seems wasteful to me. It’s like all the least sincere parts of Christmas hit me in the eye every time I venture out the door. Yesterday, I did our weekly food shop. The shops were dotted with plastic trees strung over with bland decorations in bland arrangements and tinny Christmas Carols were my constant companion, wherever I went. The news agent’s window was a mass of porcelain figurines of reindeers and snowy houses and Santas and elves and stockings and trees. Nearly all these traditional images of Christmas are so foreign to the Australian climate and yet we have persisted with them for well over 200 years.

The thing is, there’s significant pressure to be part of this Christmas hurdy gurdy – like a crazy merry go round that everybody is expected to be enthused about riding on all at once. If you’re not enthused you just feel like a spoil sport. Isn’t it okay to say that it’s dizzying and makes you feel a little sick?

And yet, I admit to being somewhat hypocritical. Because I did love Christmas as a child. I loved the flashing, colourful lights. I loved the mysterious presents under the tree. And I loved that we (my parents and my brothers and I) usually had a special breakfast together.

When I was small, we lived on a tiny island in Indonesia. We were in an expatriate community of maybe twenty houses. Nobody had extended family to spend the day with and so it was tradition to prepare little skits or sing songs. All the families who hadn’t “gone home” for Christmas would gather at the Club House for a big lunch and the chance to perform our special something.

And then, once we moved back to Australia, we always had the extended family gatherings and I loved seeing all my cousins and aunts and uncles and playing in my grandma’s pool. I think there was occasionally even the classic Aussie cricket match. But when a family feud (on one side) tore some of that asunder, Christmas lost its magic for me. I was already nearly finished high school by then (among the oldest of the cousins) so I guess I was growing out of Christmas anyway. But if you’re not religious, the “specialness” of Christmas is encapsulated by the good will of the people around you. Family feuds aren’t great for good will so I guess the spark went out of Christmas. It started to be about logistics. And maybe for the adults (and maybe especially the adult women) Christmas is always about logistics. Food, venue, gifts, cards… sometimes it feels almost like an annual wedding.

Anyway because I loved Christmas for most of my childhood, I wanted to emulate that excitement for my own kids. My husband (from the word go) would’ve preferred only a couple of presents each but I still find that hard to imagine and a day or two before Christmas I start feeling horribly stingey and a bit guilty (that hurdy gurdy thing again) and find myself sneaking extra presents into the mix. But now, with the kids better able to express their wishes, it seems like they only care about the gifts and I feel that I have inadvertently bestowed the wrong values on my little ones.

You either hurdy gurdy or you don’t, it seems. And you really need to make that decision from the day your first child is born and stick to it so that it’s all they know. Take it from me. I sat on the fence and now I’m getting uncomfortable.

8 thoughts on “Christmas

  1. Hopefully it is just a temporary phase for the kids. I am not a Christmas person. I find the organisation very challenging. However, I do like to go for my Christmas morning walk and seeing all the little kids so delighted by their presents, new bikes, etc. Also, I am less anxious about the electricity consumed by Christmas lights because where I live, we mostly meet our 100% renewable energy target. If I manage to get organised in time, we have croissants and salad to celebrate the day, but nowadays there is such a rush for croissants that I often miss out! Such is Christmas …

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  2. I have a different problem with Christmas. Almost the opposite to yours. I love it. I love decorating the house and baking Christmas goodies that I only allow myself to have for that brief period every year. I grew up watching John Martin’s Christmas Pageant on TV as a child and in person as an adult. I loved Pageant Day in Adelaide. I enjoy shows like Carols by Candlelight, although more so when it was actually caroling and not pop music thinly disguised as a Christmas concert.
    We used to have a big family Christmas when mum was alive but like you my sister and Iare now estranged from most of our family who all still live interstate anyway.
    My problem now is so many people around me who complain about Christmas and how much they hate it. They complain about having relatives over, they complain about the cost of buying gifts, they complain about the cooking but still they do it. My take on Christmas is that if you don’t enjoy the rituals then find some new ones that you do like and stop spoiling it for those of us that do. I often find myself depressed by all the negativity around me. I don’t mind if people don’t want to do Christmas but I don’t want to hear about how much they hate it.
    Now on to gift giving. I don’t have kids or grandkids so I have no idea of the pressures involved but when I was working I was shocked by the amount that people spent on their kids presents. I’d sit in the break room and hear them talk about how they were buying things like TVs, gaming consoles, mini DVD players for kids as young as five or six as well as clothes and other things. I’d wonder why they felt they had to spend so much. Grandparents had it particularly hard buying for multiple kids. When my sister and I were children we got Christmas stockings “from Santa” with a few toys and games in it and one special present from our parents. I grew up knowing that we did not have a lot of money and was satisfied with that. At a certain age I let mum know that I didn’t mind if Santa gave me a miss with the stocking. I was happy with a present from her.
    I do think that young kids should have the fun of a stocking from Santa but not that they should expect multiple expensive presents from mum and dad. I think that for me I enjoyed the giving part of Christmas the most. Choosing just the right present for each person I’m buying for, just the right card and then wrapping it up and putting it under the tree has always been special to me. I know that many people say “Christmas is just for the kids.” and they are the only ones to get gifts but maybe teaching kids to think about giving to others more than getting something themselves would help whether it’s choosing or making a small gift for a relative or friend or choosing something to go under the local charity Christmas tree. I love that moment on Christmas Day when the gifts are unwrapped and the expression on the recipients face tells me that I picked just the right thing.
    I hope you won’t think I’m having a go at you for not looking forward to Christmas. I know it’s different for everyone. I’ve never had pressure from others to be happy at Christmas because these days I seem surrounded by people who don’t like it and that makes me feel really sad. I encourage you to find a way to enjoy the season by doing something special with your family, and if that is a bush walk or a picnic on the beach that is absolutely fine. I’m not religious at all but I’ve sometimes been to a Christmas service at a local church if there was going to be singing. Just do the things that give you that special Christmas feeling in your heart and don’t be pressured into doing things you really don’t want to do.

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    1. Yes. I love Christmas carols. Just not the hype in the shops. It’s the commercialism. And I own my problems with my kids. I think I did something wrong. We got quite a few gifts as a child and I don’t remember thinking that was the most important thing. But maybe I did when I was smaller. I don’t remember believing in Santa either. It was hard to swallow living in Indonesia where chimneys weren’t a thing and he would’ve had to fit through the crack under the door. Aspects I like about Christmas as the family things. The last few years the kids and I have made decorations and ginger bread cookies. I love that. And when they’re a bit older I hope they will come to carols by candlelight with me. We never had TV when I was a child so I never got that kind of Christmas stuff – the movies, the singing etc. When I was a teenager I enjoyed going to the midnight service at the local church. But now that I have moved right away from religion, I would feel hypocritical doing that.

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    2. And I do enjoy seeing my extended family now (both my side and my husband’s side). But Christmas, as far as I am concerned, is a more stressful way to do that than at other times. The benefit of Christmas is that it provides a common day we all recognize as a holiday when getting together is possible and likely.

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      1. That’s probably the reason that it is a big thing. It is one of the few holidays celebrated in every state at the same time when people are likely to have time off work. I’m British so I like all that traditional British stuff but have spent Christmas Eve with friends who celebrate European style on Christmas Eve too.

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  3. Yeah, Christmas…I’m on the fence too.
    I used to love it as a child. The excitement, presents, visits to aunties’ homes, more presents, cousins…all that. I grew up in religious home, so we also had a Christmas morning service. I still love many aspects of Christmas, like carols. Proper carols, not songs, even thought I’m not a ‘believer’ (I guess you could call me a hypocrite, too 🙂 )
    But I really loathe organising Christmas. Having said that, because I live in Melbourne and my family are in Adelaide I’ve only ever hosted once. Plus, my brothers’ wives are strange so I’d rather not spend too much time in their presence. I used to make a pudding every November, but I’ve stopped making it over the last few years.
    Mainly though, it’s the presents for the kids, particularly the Father Christmas stuff – they’re too old to believe, but too young to want to ‘fess up to it, so we continue with the charade. I was saying to Hubster last week, I can’t wait until we can all agree FC is not real, and he responded that I sound like a grump.
    We’re going to Adelaide this year (unless, you know, covid closes borders again), and will meet up with my ageing parents, so that should be nice. On neutral territory, too.

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    1. I hear you. My daughter was terrified at the idea of a big fat man coming into our house late at night. So I told her it was just make believe when she was four or five to calm her fears. Since then she has totally bought into the fantasy and loves planning traps to catch Santa. Lol. She has deduced that the tooth fairy is make believe through logical reasoning. We rewarded that with double the money because we think questioning is healthy. So I guess she has no fear of missing out if she does “catch Santa”.

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