I don’t enjoy Christmas, for all kinds of personal reasons, alongside my loathing of the dire amounts of waste it causes. I also feel deeply uneasy about the financial pressure to buy, inflicted on people who will end up in debt as a consequence and for whom January will be miserable, terrifying, sometimes suicide inducing. I hate forced jollity, and I know too many people for whom this is the season to feel keenly the absence of lost loved ones.
If you enjoy the festive period, fine, go for it. What I object to are the people who feel entitled to tell me – and others who are unhappy during this season – that we should be happy. We should make more effort to be happy. We shouldn’t be such killjoys. We shouldn’t talk about the bad things, we should pretend they don’t exist. Sod that. Ironically, this approach adds to the misery. Being asked to fake Christmas spirit for the benefit of those around me has never made me feel better about things.
Festive on my terms. It means doing the things I want to do, not the things other people want me to do. Most years it means crafting gifts and buying things I can afford from local traders. It means not having put up any decorations, and looking forward to not having to take them down again later. It means not eating myself into a state of discomfort in a single session, but lots of evenings cheerfully nomming on root vegetables. It means pudding, because I do truly love the Christmas pudding, and I love it best when I’ve not had to get into proper festive spirit with a course or two ahead of it.
This year, I’ve done a fantastic job so far of avoiding too much exposure to shitty Christmas pop songs. That’s been a great mood improver. Empty, saccharine coated lyrics full of pretending everything is lovely. I especially hate any song that tries to tell us about peace and goodwill at Christmas. A feelgood fantasy that helps us ignore how much is really wrong. So much is wrong right now, hanging a bit of tinsel off it won’t change that. We can’t shop our way into the world being a better place.
When the stuffed full bin bags start to appear after the big day, I will mourn, as I mourn every year for the waste of resources, for the lack of care, for the total pointlessness of it. That particular phase of grief has become part of what this season means to me. It is a time to mourn for humanity, to mourn for our eco-suicide, our enthusiasm for putting short term superficial cheer ahead of the survival of the planet. It’s a time to mourn for all the things I can’t fix. And then we rush towards the shiny promise of the New Year telling ourselves it will be great and getting massively drunk to prove it.
I don’t want glut and debt. I want small good things that can be paced through the darker months. I want the warm comfort of being snuggled up inside with people I like spending time with. I want a steady supply of good food. I want lights – just a few lights, because I also want the deep winter darkness. I want real peace, not pretend peace designed to make us spend more money.