In the words of the now headless Hand to the King, Eddard Stark, “Winter is Coming”. And that can only mean one thing. Christmas. The Holiday Season. The Festive Period. It’s supposed to be the season of goodwill to all men (and women I assume, although the workload surrounding this celebration is usually skewed more heavily towards the female population). I’m just not feeling very festive yet. Yes the shops are in full Christmas mode now, the lights are going on in all the major high streets and the television adverts are gradually being dominated by more and more saccharin sweet, warm- the- cockles- of -your -heart, food and alcohol laden festive messages designed to make you want to rush out and spend money to make this the best Christmas yet. This bothers me. The competitive element I mean. The pressure on people to serve the perfect Christmas lunch, be the perfect host, decorate the perfect tree and provide the whole family with the most perfectly wrapped, thoughtfully chosen gifts is immense. Growing numbers of families get into debt every year whilst attempting to give their children everything on their wish lists. The number of people contacting the Samaritans or even worse, committing suicide, rises every Christmas. The true, Christian meaning of Christmas has been lost.
This time of year has always been difficult for me. My childhood memories of Christmas are peppered with awful experiences. There was always tension in our house. My stepfather was a drinker. My mum hated him getting drunk. Many Christmas dinners were ruined by bitter rows, followed by long periods of silence. My siblings and I learned early on to keep out of the way. As the eldest child I felt responsible for hiding as much of the horror as possible from them. It has resulted in me being quite fanatical about making sure every aspect of Christmas is perfect for my family. It’s bloody hard work and of course, it’s impossible. I am destined to fail every year, purely because we are all human. Now that two of my children no longer live with us, I relish spending time with them and I’m never happier than when they are all here. The banter flows, they tease each other, their father and me and mostly it’s in good humour. However, add to the mix the pressure cooker atmosphere of Christmas, where everyone has to be together all day and we are all supposed to have the time of our lives, and we start to feel claustrophobic. There was, on one particularly fraught occasion, actually bodily harm inflicted during an altercation between two of my children and it was horrid. Mostly though, it is just hard to please everyone and no matter how well I plan things, something is bound to go wrong. Then I feel like a failure.
New Years Eve is even worse. This is my least favourite day of the year. Enforced enjoyment is no fun for me. I often wish I could just go to bed and sleep through it all. I usually end up drinking too much and spending New Years Day in a world of pain. Why do I feel like this? I think it is because it all seems so pointless to me. The responsibility of all the planning, shopping, cooking, and decorating is overwhelming. The endless lists are exhausting. And then there is the stuff. All the stuff we end up with. Things we never knew we needed and have no idea where to put. The food we eat just because it is there and we can’t bear to throw it away. Why do we need to express our love for our families by buying them stuff? I need to pare it all back this year. I have a new grandson, so of course I will have fun buying him toys and books but I’m going to try to enjoy this Christmas for what it is supposed to be. A celebration of being together with my loved ones and giving thanks for the small joys we experience every day. It will not be perfect, but it will be the best I can do.
Thanks for reading. xx