For a few years now I have maintained that I don’t particularly like Christmas. Don’t love it, don’t hate it, don’t really feel anything much about it. Just another day, you know? A couple of days off work, maybe lunch with friends, a gift or two if I’m lucky, but nothing particularly special.
You know what? I lied.
I love Christmas. I also hate it, and that has confused me for a long time.
When I was a child I adored Christmas. I’m sure a lot of that was due to the presents – what’s not to love about that? But I also loved that we’d see grandparents and cousins and family friends. When I was older, and most of my siblings had left home, it was exciting to have the whole family together, along with some of their friends. I loved the tree, the lights, the decorations. Most of all, I loved the traditions. There is something deeply comforting about seeing the same familiar decorations come out of their boxes each year, about putting the same Christmassy snacks on the plate that only comes out at Christmas. There are rituals and traditions and in-jokes that only a member of my family would appreciate.
And that’s it. That’s why I also hate Christmas. The traditions.
For many years, and for a variety of reasons, I haven’t visited my family of origin for Christmas. Usually one friend or another will invite me over for Christmas lunch, which is always lovely. Don’t think I’m not grateful for the invitations – I always have a good time and I would seriously hate to be alone on Christmas day. But as kind and thoughtful as my friends are, I’m still an outsider taking part in their Christmas, with their traditions.
Whilst writing this, I’ve thought about what my counsellor would say to me. I’m sure she would tell me (in fact probably has told me before) that I can make my own traditions. That it’s okay to do things I want to do, and to have my own rituals. And yes, that’s true, and to an extent I do – my tree is already decorated, the lights make me happy, and I’m listening to extremely non-trendy Christmas music. I might even make some gingerbread. But for all that, I actually CAN’T do the things I want to do. Because what I want is to share Christmas with my own family. To build family Christmas traditions with my own children. To have silly in-jokes, to make paper chains together just like when I was little, to talk about how awesome it is that God sent Jesus into our world (something I certainly never did when I was little), to put up favourite, familiar decorations.
I can’t have that Christmas. Instead of the family traditions I dreamed about as a child, there’s just me – desperately trying to make Christmas something special and trying not to be swallowed up with loneliness and resentment at the same time. Right now I’m not doing a brilliant job of it, but hey, there are still a couple of weeks. And in the meantime, there’s always Ella…