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YOUR VOICE: Learning To Like Christmas

Christmas is the enemy. The fear starts around mid-November, and this continues well into January. So, a few years ago, in an attempt to break this cycle, I decided to reject it. Totally ignore Christmas.

The actual day was spent alone in my flat, watching TV and reading. I had a cheese sandwich for lunch, and it was delicious. Although it was a stress free day, it was clear to me that my day was a reaction to something. It felt churlish, even childish. I declared the day to be a small victory, but it was a hollow one.

I don’t have much money, and Christmas has always signified debt. I do enjoy socialising, but partying leaves me cold – and I don’t really drink, so the festivities have often served as a reminder of what I perceive to be my inability to ‘join in’. I guess it feels like an attack. A festive attack.

But, you know, I’m getting older now, and I am learning the importance of compromise. I am no longer passionate about my dislike for Christmas, and I have discovered ways to get through it without being too miserable, or ruining it for others.

It’s okay to say no to things, and even if you have obligations, it’s possible to fulfil these on your own terms. My default setting is to feel overwhelmed, but I have started to challenge this. I now meet people in smaller groups, and concentrate on spending longer periods of time with the company of people I enjoy. It’s all too easy to throw the baby out with the bath water.

I have started planning ahead, and prioritising things. This is a generally a good thing to do regardless of Christmas, but I find it especially useful at this time of year, as it helps to avoid last minute scrambling to get things done. It also allows you to take some control over your experience. Christmas no longer becomes this “thing” that is happening to you.

As a family, we now do Secret Santa. You know the drill. Everyone’s names are put into a hat, we draw one out, and then we do a group email in October, listing the things that we might like. There’s a £30 spending limit. This has meant that for the last five years, the stress of buying presents has all but disappeared. We spend a total of £30, and we all get something we want.

Tradition is great, but if you’re following it out of obligation, perhaps it’s time to tweak a few things. The turning point for me was last year, when instead of having a drink with a friend, I spent Christmas Eve panic buying Christmas pudding and crackers. The pudding was left in the cupboard ‘cos we realised nobody actually likes it, and although, granted – two of the crackers were pulled the next day, the remaining ten are still in the attic of my old house.

Christmas can be made to be bloody enticing, and it’s easy to get romanced by the thick smog of festive guff that emanates from the ad agencies. I want all of Marks and Spencer’s food. I want friends to just pop by, I’ll give them a beer, and then we’ll laugh and watch Wallace and Gromit or something. I want it to snow, and – wait a minute, I suddenly want to have kids, and I want them to be opening their first train set, and everyone is there and we’re all very happy and everything is perfect.

Facebook feeds fuel my desire to be better, to have more. A beautifully decorated fir tree, perfectly wrapped gifts, and a fully stocked bar. It’s almost impossible not be at the very least, slightly disappointed by the reality, even if you have everything. I mean have you really got everything? Perhaps you have. You forgot the nuts. Christmas is ruined.

A great celebration should not be reliant on elaborate decorations or gourmet food though.If I work out what I can afford, what I need and what will make me genuinely happy, I sort of maybe actually start to look forward to the holidays (a little bit, perhaps). Because then it’s about embracing something and focusing on what’s important to me, rather than attempting to live up to unrealistic expectations, or hiding away.

Christmas can feel like it’s geared towards the traditional family, or those with a partner. And for the people that don’t have that, it can be a desperately hard time. But even for those that do, it can be equally isolating and lonely, even when surrounded by people they love.

If you enjoy Christmas, spare a thought for those who find it a bit too much. They might even be at your table and not wanting to say how they feel because they’re afraid of spoiling your day.

If Christmas is about anything, it’s about looking after each other.

Happy Christmas.

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