I have a confession to make – I’m not sure how I feel about Christmas any more. It’s a great excuse to have a break from work, spend time with loved ones and indulge in festive treats but the older I get, the more I’m starting to question whether I’m just going through the motions of celebrating this cultural holiday.
For me, Christmas is an enjoyable habit resulting from 30-something years of celebrating it simply because everyone else around me does. I’m an agnostic, so I don’t celebrate the “true meaning of Christmas” (i.e. the birth of Christ), and I don’t have children, so I don’t do the “magic of Christmas” thing (e.g. letters/visits to Santa, the Elf on the Shelf, stockings on Christmas morning etc).
Although Christmas isn’t especially meaningful for me, I still like to observe many of its customs – particularly watching hokey Christmas films (and poking fun at the tropes of the genre), spending time with my loved ones and enjoying festive food and drink.
I’d miss Christmas if I stopped celebrating it but I certainly wouldn’t miss the pressure I feel to:
- decorate my surroundings with tchotchkes that aren’t my usual taste
- find the perfect gifts for people who already have pretty much everything they need/want
- wear clothes I’d never usually choose (e.g. sparkly dresses and novelty jumpers)
- spend a week’s shopping budget and hours of preparation to produce an elaborate Christmas dinner and Boxing Day buffet
- split my time equally between my loved ones (whoever I spend Christmas with, I still feel guilty about not spending it with someone else).
I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this type of pressure, which I think originates from advertising and social media; as consumers, we’re exposed to so many images of what a “perfect” Christmas should look like that we set totally unrealistic expectations for ourselves. This especially affects women, who (according to YouGov research) take on most of the “emotional labour” of Christmas; for example by writing and sending cards, buying and wrapping presents, decorating the tree, arranging family visits, procuring and preparing the food, tidying up afterwards and so on.
With all of this in mind, I find myself questioning why I do certain things at Christmas – because I want to or because I’ve been conditioned to think that I should? From now on, I’m going to question my festive habits and only do the things that I actually enjoy or that mean something to me.
This Christmas, I’ve spent less money on gifts and made more plans to see people because I hope my loved ones will appreciate my presence more than presents. I’ve asked my family to phase out gift-giving altogether because there’s nothing I really need/want and I’d like to spare them the expense (and stress) of buying gifts for me. I’ll still have a huge Christmas dinner and copious amounts of mulled wine and chocolate because, for me, the festive indulgence is the best part of Christmas (I love food and would happily eat 6,000 calories a day* more often if it wouldn’t impact on my waistline!).
If you’ve ever questioned the things you (or other people) do at Christmas, I hope you’ll relate to this poem – which takes a tongue-in-cheek look at common festive habits. However you’re spending the season, I wish you Happy Holidays!