About this time two years ago I was getting my ear chewed pretty thoroughly over not being ‘Christmasy’. With my man on the other side of an ocean and no idea how on earth to get the life I wanted, I was not the world’s happiest creature, and faking ‘Christmassy’ was beyond me. Amusingly, the ear-chewer claimed to be pagan. God only knows why she was so fussed about a Christian festival, or why she imagined that I should be.
I think it as three years ago that I explained to my son about Santa. The school had been collecting gifts for children who were in extreme poverty and the lad had become uncomfortable. Dreading the ‘why does father Christmas only give gifts to rich children?’ question, I sat him down. He was much relieved to find there wasn’t a horrible, magical injustice in the world, and we’ve been fine since then. He’s respected other children’s right not to know. I’d rather he didn’t grow up thinking that father Christmas gives the best presents to the kids whose parents are loaded, while starving children around the world don’t get so much as an orange. That’s not the kind of magic I want him to believe in.
I have no problem with the impulse towards light and creating cheer in these dark months. Feasting is fine, a drink with friends, small gifts for those you care for. If someone is genuinely Christian and celebrating a religious festival, I have no problem with that. What I can’t abide is the mass worship of the gods of commerce, sacrifices offered to the altar of worthless, useless stocking filler tat, the greed, the waste, and above all else the demand that I be ‘Christmassy’. It’s not my festival, and I’m not going to celebrate it.
In previous years I have gone along with it to a fair degree. Last year I was too ill and too tired and rather caught up in the process of getting married. This year’s small living space rules out a tree, and the self-generated electricity means we aren’t going to waste such a precious resource on twinkly lights. I’m not sending cards, it’s just too much work, time and energy, not to mention the cost. There are people I only have contact with through Christmas cards, most years. It makes more sense to either have a real relationship with them, or admit that I don’t and step back. So, if I normally send you a card and haven’t, don’t take it personally. At some point I will emerge from my hermit state and start connecting properly again. But not with Christmas cards.
It’s been a huge relief this year, admitting that I don’t like Christmas as a festival. It’s not my festival, I feel no inclination to celebrate it or to participate in unsustainable behaviour just to fit in. Anyone who wants to send me cards, that’s fine, I won’t be offended, just as I won’t be offended if someone sends me cards for any of the many other festivals I don’t celebrate. I’ll honour the intentions of the sender just the same.
No tinsel. No tree. No spending my Saturdays stressing over impossible shopping endeavours (I have made some things). No fake seasonal cheeriness. I will do some things I like, with some people whose company I like and none of them are the sort of people to give me a hard time for not being ‘Christmassy’. I’ll honour the shortest day, and look forward to the returning light from the perspective of being all too familiar with the depths of the darkness. From this position of being stood back, the frantic shopping and forced jollity, against such a stark backdrop of economic gloom, is surreal. Encountering it, feels weird. It doesn’t seem at all real to me, at all routed in anything actual, or heartfelt, or even viable. Our culture has been partying for too long, and the collective hangover is just around the corner as we wait for someone to bring us the bill. A few fairy lights do nothing to ward of the darkness of an economic depression, or an emotional one. I’d rather step away from the houses and look up at the stars instead.
If you are celebrating a festival, I wish you much joy in it, and also a peaceful way through the process that doesn’t cost more than it turns out to be worth.