Some say it starts earlier, but December 1st is when the wave of ‘Christmas’ begins to rush into my life, filling whatever small gaps in space and time there were. I try to escape it generally by avoiding any sort of shopping area or terrestrial television that might be trying to thrust something Christmassy upon me whether through programmes or commercials. It’s not even that I don’t like Christmas. Its just that the density of the Christmas infusion for the entire month of December is so intense that it takes effort to remain grounded and not be swept away in some notion that you must attend a number of festive events or buy a million trinkets as gifts. Its no wonder we have “bah humbug” in our vocabulary for those who simply can’t cope. I sometimes wonder if I had endless money and time, would I perhaps enjoy the full on festive flurry? I can’t help but conclude that for this to be possible, the rest of the year would have to be incredibly dull.
I get it. We need something to lift our spirits in the middle of winter. Quite frankly, I think we need it in January as that seems to be the most miserable of months (although we could blame Christmas for that!). And before you think me a very cynical and ill-tempered person, let me express some of what I love about Christmas and what it can be.
Who isn’t enamoured by Christmas lights and the faint memory of sitting near the tree as a child? The sumptuous aroma of cinnamon, clove or orange from a candle or better yet some angel who has baked fresh shortbread biscuits. The romantic scene of decent carol singers in harmony while you sip hot apple cider with your friends. Snuggling under the duvet or if you’re lucky, by an open fire with a good book is simply dreamy. At certain stages of life a raucous night out at some cheesy pub singing along to Abba feels Christmassy. Equally at other times, its gratifying to simply have some quiet time to reflect on the year gone by or to plan for the year ahead. These are just some of my favourite festive frolics.
But with the overload of information we live with today and the tightening of budgets, it can all be too much. Every media title can make you feel like you’re inadequate. ‘5 things you can do with your leftover Christmas decorations’ or ‘How to make Christmas magical for the kids’. Sure these articles can be interesting and helpful but sometimes the amount of stuff we read and take in can overwhelm us.
What we need to do with Christmas is de-clutter it. Christmas has grown so big that there are bound to be things you love and things you hate about it. The point is that we can be in control of it. We can make Christmas work for us. Social pressure can be fierce and it happens without us being conscious of it. All it takes is a little daytime TV and a trip to the shops and suddenly you feel you ought to be buying cards for colleagues, gifts for relatives, making decorations with your kids and baking goodies for your neighbours. But today’s Christmas doesn’t have to sweep you up with it. It doesn’t have to take the form that the media present to you. You can dip in and out as you please. Make Christmas fit in with your values, whether they are spiritual, environmental, minimalist, fun and festive or about giving to others. Decide which ‘bits’ of Christmas bring you joy and leave the rest behind. And if you need an excuse to do this, call it mental health preservation.