Why Christmas isn’t always what you think it is
It's not long now until Christmas. I’m really sorry if I’ve just made anyone's blood pressure rise, but I simply can’t wait – I am hosting the first proper Christmas with ‘the little guy’ (my first grand baby whose curiosity is nothing but infectious).
You see two years ago I felt anything but excited. I was in a somewhat rebellious and ‘anti-Christmas’ mood that I knew had been brewing for a few years.
For a start, I was getting thoroughly fed up with the lead up to Christmas, the silly season, as some people like to call it. Life seems to speed up for women at this time of year – why do we let that happen?
Also, I felt I was grinning and bearing the commercial aspect of Christmas that I have struggled with, for far too long.
Why we need Christmas traditions
To say in my defence, I did it for the sake of my children. Having suffered perhaps more than our fair share of life changing events (often coincidentally in the pre-Christmas season), I knew deep down that clinging to our usual Christmas traditions, had a true purpose. Even if this meant an excess of food, drink or presents!
Perhaps it’s understandable that you would crave a sense of normality when you’ve just buried a much-loved granddad who died of cancer. Especially when you discover a few days later that his son (your husband) has cancer too. And all this with just a few days to go before Christmas.
It wasn’t our first challenging Christmas either. Although fortunately my husband recovered over time, for a few years it seemed as if the Christmas season would, without fail, bring some heartache to our house.
The result? We started to cherish our Christmas traditions and rituals more than ever. They took on an important role in becoming the safety net my family clearly needed at that time of year.
Whether we would buy a real tree just before Christmas, make time to bake special treats or have a fondue and open presents on Christmas Eve, it gave us hope.
But still, certain aspects of Christmas just wouldn’t go away for me, starting with what I consider an extravagant use of Christmas cards.
I not only had issues with the ever-increasing waste paper mountain.
I questioned why we would send an impersonal card to people especially those we see quite regularly. Why not wish neighbours, colleagues and local friends a much more meaningful ‘Merry Christmas’ in person?
When something needs to change
So I stopped complaining and replaced cards with environment friendly e-greetings, picking up the phone and texting people instead. It felt really good and made sense. (Although don’t get me wrong, I do respect other people's compelling personal reasons to send cards!)
Then, two years ago, I took things a step further. Having had a good run of Christmases without any major 'trauma' I felt it was time for more changes.
We said no the usual menus, no to the unnecessary waste of food, sweets and alcohol, and no to presents, except for one small present per person.
I loved it. Christmas had become simpler and more meaningful.
There was none of the usual pressure, nothing I felt I ‘should’ do (just because it’s Christmas and because it’s what your friends or neighbours do too)
It worked last year too and this year… well we’ll be coming full circle with ‘the little guy’ getting more involved. I now want to bring back the odd family tradition from when I was a child and my children were little too.
I think dealing with negative experiences over Christmas, can bring home to you that presents are pretty meaningless in the bigger scheme of things. Especially giving presents to people who already have everything.
Why give in to the media’s influence that makes you think (wrongly) that it’s only that special present that will put a smile on someone’s face?
What really matters
Whilst presents may be lovely for children, as you get older you are probably happy when you have your health and are surrounded by those you love. Nothing else matters that much at the end of the day.
So try not to let it matter too much when you get to Christmas and realise that you’ve forgotten to send your email newsletter out, didn’t press ‘publish’ on your latest blog or forgot to buy that special tipple for Uncle Harry. (Anyway Uncle Harry may be more than happy with your kind invite to share your Christmas with you!)
Are you not quite sure where you stand when it comes to Christmas?
Whatever life throws at you, try to resist the pressure to celebrate it in a way you feel you should. Instead mark it in the way you want to – a way that gives you and your loved ones meaning.
Remember it is love and hope and joy that count. Regardless of how you spread it, it doesn’t have to look like presents.