I realise I am jumping the gun somewhat given that we haven’t even reached December yet, but it is already evident that the season is encroaching upon us with alarming speed and determination, as witnessed by the arrival of the Kristkindlmarkt in the city centre, and has now been there for over a week.
Mmm that oh so delightful season is encroaching upon us once more. Now, I am not Scrooge, but I willingly admit to a certain dissatisfaction or distaste for the festive season. I should add that I am not religious, in any way, so the fact that my family celebrates Christmas is somewhat beyond me. Okay, some of them have slight religious leanings but generally I don’t believe that is why we partake of the rituals.
This is not about me not liking the Christmas season it is about my lack of understanding surrounding a more modern and commercial view of what was once a fairly low key holiday and the madness that surrounds it.
As a child I loved Christmas, the excitement of seeing whether or not Father Christmas would come, and if he did would he leave you anything. I was not a deprived child by any means, at least not that I feel anyway, I had (have) a loving family but we were not especially of a fiscally viable nature as it were. We never had a great deal of money and thus things which, quite frankly, I never noticed in the least as we were certainly never lacking either. Maybe that is the nature of our childhood (mine and my brother’s that is), we had each other, our family and rich imaginations, so actual ‘things’ weren’t particularly necessary, they were certainly nice, but not vital to our happiness, though the things that we were given were usually well appreciated and used by us, for example we were given bikes at some point in later childhood and used those every day, the same for the roller skates, though I was more fond of them than my brother, we later played Roller Hockey, so they came in for a great deal of use.
Let’s put it this way. One year we wrote our letters to Father Christmas (I will NOT call him Santa Claus) as per usual and sent them up the chimney and rushed out to see if the elves would collect them… witnessed by the sparks that emerged from the top of the chimney… now might be the time to clarify that we had a log burning fire in the living room. It turned out that my brother had asked for a banana, when the day came, about two days later, we always sent our letters just prior to Christmas eve, he found his stocking with the asked for Banana sticking out of the top and was so pleased that he had received what we had asked for that he never thought to look further to see if he had been given anything else.
Now, I freely admit that my brother was a very unusual child and that this happiness and surprise was not because we were lacking, simply because that was who he was. Also we both found the task of writing to Father Christmas somewhat problematic, we never really wanted to ask for anything… indeed that attitude has predominantly continued into adulthood, which I think vexes my mother and Gran as it offers no insight as to what we would appreciate to receive as gifts, that’s just the way we are, then again most of our family aren’t very good at asking for things…whether it be gifts or help.
I said some of our family; the exception would be our three young cousins. They have no such qualms in asking for things or expecting them for that matter. Now, I am not saying they are ungrateful, far from it, anything I have ever given them has always been thanked for profusely and with genuine meaning and enthusiasm, however the amount of ‘stuff’ they have astounds me. I have to constantly remind myself that we are of very different upbringings and indeed of era’s, given that there is a 14.5 year difference between me and the oldest of the three and 18.5 years between myself and the twins. We might be ‘technically’ of the same generation but in actuality we really are not. They also live in a more financially stable environment than we ever did. The entire lifestyle attitude is completely contrary to anything I have ever known, indeed I find it hard to comprehend that I live in more financially stable times (perhaps an ironic thing to say given the current economic climate, but there you go), at least within my family and to understand the repercussions of that.
I have talked about Christmas so far only as a receiver. This is not an accurate assessment of my attitude towards the holiday season at all. One of the things I like the most about this time of year is the excuse to give people things that I have thought about for sometime and hopefully given them something that they will enjoy. I try to put a lot of thought behind my gifts (on any occasion), I try not to give people anything without due consideration. For example this year I am giving several people things that I have made myself as opposed to bought… for is it not written that: ‘It is the thought that counts’ (I am a follower of The Way… of Mrs Cosmopolite, Ankh Morpork)?
Truthfully the real thing I like about the holiday season is the communal family aspect of it. This is the thing that I crave the most, ideally this would be the case all year round all of us living in a huge place (there are 11 of us) and acting as a whole to feed, clothe, care for the children etc. Let it be noted that this only works with family; I am not generally interested in living in a commune. At Christmas, as at a variety of other times throughout the year, we get together, a few of us cook, some keep the kids occupied… etc everyone does something to benefit the whole. This is what I like about Christmas; this is what it means to ME.
The en-mass commercialism and advocating of Christmas being a time for ‘getting’ is something that genuinely perplexes me and faintly horrifies me. Even as a none believer I do not think that this was originally meant to be the message of Christmas… of course the Christian/Catholic church to run slipshod over the Pagan festivals already in place at that time of year and turn them into Christian events, manipulating time in such a way as to horrify, or perhaps impress, the History Monks. The shops are gearing up to a major purchasing season with no consideration for the season barring greed.
I hate it. Yes hate is a very strong word, and I am not a big fan of it generally, I’m really not (nor do I like the word ‘deserve’ but no matter) but the inherent greed and accumulation of things just flummoxes me. When did it become like this? Are we this far removed from my own childhood that this is now the norm? Or was what I experienced never the norm in the first place except for us?
I do, admittedly have guilty pleasures about the Christmas season, barring the communal aspect, which I have come to conclude, if I don’t have that, and then it is just another day with an unusual choice of foodstuffs in my opinion.
One is my mothers cooking. Now she is always excellent, but there is something about Christmas dinner when made by her that is truly… *sigh*. To the point where I nearly always turn down desert in favour of having a little more of the main, her chestnut and bacon stuffing is particularly lovely.
Secondly, lying on the landing in the dark with only the white fairy lights we wind around the banister on, I don’t care for decorations generally… well I care neither way, I am happy for them to be there but it makes little difference to me if they are not… except the landing fairy lights, we put them up one year for no other reason than because we could and since then I have always insisted they are there. (Now might be a time to talk about my Aspergic tendencies?) I can spend hours lying there in the semi-sparkly darkness quite content.
Thirdly is the feeling of contentment that arrives just post lunch and usually in front of the fire (once more we have a real fire in the living room, though we no longer send our letters up it) surrounded by Mom’s two dogs (one of them is usually lying on me, it’s okay they are both small, mini-Dachshunds) and my cat and, if fortune has been kind, a new book, or indeed any book for that matter, with my family in equal states of repose around me. Sometimes a movie will be playing, or maybe music, either way a most pleasant way of spending a winter afternoon with maybe the prospect of a walk later in the afternoon.
Admittedly that last ‘pleasure’ is something that can be recreated on any winter afternoon, but there is something particularly pleasant about it if it is a Christmas or Boxing Day.
I can remember one year, I believe I was about 14 and had made a request of a gift which I received, a copy of “Romeo and Juliet” (yes, I really was a strange child I know) and was duly pleased with, more so because it was a beautifully illustrated, hard back edition with a blue tassel bookmark, but the real joy was spending my Christmas afternoon in such repose, (sans the dogs as they are a relatively new addition and we are talking at least 12/13 years ago now) devouring that present with unfettered joy and contentment.
So, that is what Christmas means to me, and this is why I cannot understand this mass marketed and produced thing that claims to be ‘Christmas’ but resembles very little that I associate with, or desire for that matter.
My mother read a book a few years ago, the title of which was something along the lines of ‘Unplugging the Christmas machine’, an idea which I find strange, since to do so, you have to have subscribed to that way of thinking in the first place. Nevertheless I can appreciate the sentiment of the book if not the actual suggestions.
In recent years as I have grown older and naturally become more independent (than I already was, I’m an independent young cuss after all) I have started having the occasionally Christmas with friends instead, a pseudo-family if you will, for I think we all consider each other as such and have searched for that element of life with each other. This year however, two of our ‘family’ members are going abroad for the holiday season to spend it with the chap’s (of the two) family as he isn’t from England so they have to share their time between various family members as well as ourselves. These Christmas’ that have been designed by ourselves hold equal attraction to us as the ones with our ‘technical’ families. It is nice that a balance between the two can be arrived at without compromising that which you have with either set of people.