My second least favourite question (after ‘aren’t you sad you don’t have children’?) is ‘what are you doing for Christmas’? Apparently my answer of ‘nothing’ isn’t socially acceptable. Or so it seems. The person asking the question inevitably tilts their head to the side, and looks at me as if I’m a puppy that needs rescuing from the pound. At this point I silently pray they don’t invite us to spend Christmas with them and their extended family.
At the moment my Instagram feed is inundated with photos of decorated Christmas trees, homemade wreaths and gingerbread men. People’s stories show them beautifully wrapping presents while fairy lights twinkle, and carols play softly in the background. There’s an air of calm and festivity that everyone wishes their Christmas embodied.
I think it is important to remember that our social media feeds are simply a snapshot in someone’s day. That they are the curated highlight reels of that person's life, and not necessarily the reality of this time of year.
For many Christmas is quite different. This morning’s news reported that Australians are set to spend more money over this Christmas period than ever before. Millions of people around the world are buying plastic toys wrapped in plastic; oblivious to the ramifications it will have on the environment. They are spending $10 on a gift for their co-worker, who they don’t like but whose name they drew out of a hat. All of this will be wrapped up in garish Christmas paper that comes wrapped in more plastic, and often paid for on a credit card with plastic money they don’t actually have.
Then there are the work parties that are an Introverts nightmare and the obligatory ‘we must catch up for a drink before Christmas’ gatherings. Not to mention trying to negotiate your way through the hordes of people who think they are going to starve to death because the supermarket is closed for one day.
Christmas day is often spent with your head in the oven, when you’d much rather be relaxing in a hammock with a good book. You have to worry about Uncle Bob who is getting drunker by the minute, while separating fighting children and making sure Grandma doesn’t full asleep in her trifle.
We have many reasons why my fiancé and I don’t celebrate Christmas in a socially acceptable way, and most of the reasons aren’t my story to tell. It’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t a happy time of year for some people. That it can stir up memories some would rather keep buried in the past. And as the boy said this morning as we watched the news, ‘when did we all forget what the meaning of Christmas is really about’?
It’s not that we don’t do Christmas; it’s just that we do it our way. We do send presents home to our nieces and nephews, as they are still young and I know they love unwrapping something special on Christmas morning from their Aunty and Uncle. I also write individual, handwritten letters to people I don’t see often, but hold a special place in my life. People like my old flat mate, an old school friend and my Grandma.
What’s most interesting is the reaction from people when I tell them how we spend Christmas day. In the morning wake slowly to a quiet house and cook whitebait patties on the BBQ for breakfast. Then we either take the boat out and go fishing, or take the dogs to the river for a swim. During the afternoon we read, watch a movie or potter in the garden. At the end of the day we cook homemade pizzas in the pizza oven, and have a couple of quiet drinks while the dogs lie at our feet.
At this point the person, who looked at me like I was a puppy in need of rescuing, tilts their head to the other side, sighs and simply says ‘that sounds nice’. And yes it is.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this post is that, like everything in life, you get to celebrate Christmas however you like. And as long as you are choosing to spend it mindfully, simply and slowly it is a special day - whether fairy lights dance in the background or not.