Ah, November. Once Bonfire Night is out of the way, and we’ve all finished trampling one another in the Black Friday sales, it’s socially acceptable to get Christmassy. But what does it mean to get into the Christmas spirit these days?
We’ve all heard the saying, it’s not Christmas until you’ve seen the Coca Cola advert. Or, for our friends across the pond, wait until Thanksgiving is over before you put the tinsel up. Everyone seems to have a rule about when it’s okay to get excited for Christmas. You may have a few Facebook friends who posted pictures saying FIFTEEN WEEKS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!, which made you want to scream. You may have walked into your local supermarket around Halloween and been personally affronted by the appearance of Terry’s Chocolate Oranges. You might secretly want to punch the friend who’s had all of their presents bought since June (that’s me, the annoying friend). Whatever your story, what I want to ask is this: why are we all so het up about Christmas?
They say there’s a surge of suicides around Christmas. The opinion seems to differ when it comes to research on this matter, but I can certainly understand an increase in depression around this time of year. SAD affects a large percentage of people every year, myself included; the colder weather makes chronic illnesses a bit harder to deal with; and you’re confronted with all these Christmas films and adverts, spewing the happy family rhetoric into your front room.
And the money! The amount of people who get themselves into debt to make Christmas perfect. The food, the alcohol, the presents. Kids always want the latest gadgets, the latest games, expensive clothes. Every year, it gets harder to buy something for my 17-year-old brother. I used to bang my head against the wall, trying desperately to buy the best gifts, the right gifts, spend the right amount of money, make up for the fact that we have little to no remaining family, and, as the eldest, it always fell to me to make sure our mum was sorted, all while maintaining a MERRY CHRISTMAS smile… before joining in with the Annual Patis Family Bust-Up, Christmas Special.
Last year, I said, no more. My partner and I moved into our own place a week before Christmas, and although we ate our roast beef (yes, beef) surrounded by boxes and cats anxious to go outside, it was peaceful. No Christmas tree, just a bit of tinsel and a Pikachu in a Santa hat. This year, since we will have the luxury of time, we’ll be putting our decorations up the last weekend of November, and bollocks to anyone who says it’s too early. We started buying presents in June (hello Prime Day!), and will grab a few last-minute deals on Black Friday (strictly online shopping). Most of our gifts are already wrapped, our cards have been written, and, for the first year ever, I’ve managed to channel the artist in me and tie bows around the presents.
Since my mum has pulled an Ian Beale and cancelled Christmas this year, we’re just popping round on Xmas eve with their gifts, and will walk out empty-handed. But that doesn’t matter. We’ve had time to buy some excellent gifts (and my awkward brother is just getting some money in a card), and even Mrs Scrooge won’t be able to complain about her gift. But we don’t give to receive. My family has always had this inherent hatred for Christmas. I’d battle it every year – getting excited when the lights get turned on in the town centre, listening to Michael Bublé on the radio, wiping away tears at the various heart-wrenching adverts – only to spend Christmas Day in a haze of anger and sadness.
I think one of the reasons why Christmas Day is usually an anti-climax is that we expect so much from it. We expect to be able to get along with our bitchy sister, our loser brother-in-law, our grumpy uncle, just for one day, but on any other day, we wouldn’t spare them the time. Why should I sit there and accept someone’s racism, sexism, general nastiness, just because it’s Christmas? Fuck Christmas, and fuck you.
Or rather, fuck that. Why do we do this to ourselves? My partner and I resolved to never again allow traditions and demands make us unhappy, and we haven’t looked back. I know, some of you might be thinking, it’s easy for you to say, but trust me, it isn’t. And trust me, you can do it too. It’s all about setting boundaries. Last year, we had the excuse of moving house to not join in with many festivities, but this year, we’ve set our own schedule. We’ve organised several meals with various people in the coming weeks, keeping Christmas Day clear for ourselves. We’ve kept to a budget. We’re having beef again – yes, beef, who the hell even likes turkey?! – and we raided The Range for decorations. It’ll be like Christmasland in our front room, though without the vampiric children (kids are banned from our house).
And it will be fun. It will be quiet, relaxed, full of food and people we actually want to spend time with, rather than allowing the toxicity of blood is thicker than water to ruin our mental health. We will put our Santa hats on, eat, drink, and be merry. Will you?