Updated: Apr 7
It's that time of year again and this time around I've thought a lot about Christmas and what it means to me. In the parts of the world where Christmas is celebrated, we all have very different relationships to the holidays. Some of us love it, some of us hate it and some of us don't really care about it. Some of us go all out, some of us don't celebrate it and some can't wait for it to be over. There are so many sides to Christmas, both good and bad, spanning from materialism and consumption, to charity and generosity. Envy, love, loneliness, connection, kindness, greed. It's a time that can bring out the worst and the best in us and it's definitely not surprising that it's a complicated time that can take its toll on our mental health.
So here's me, reflecting on my relationship to Christmas in blog form, as I do most of my reflecting these days. First, I should disclaim that I am a very christmassy person, from a very christmassy family, what with my sister's birthday being at Christmas and all. I'm one of those annoying people who, come December 1st, goes into full festive mode. I love this time of year with the decorations, the treats, the music (yes the music), the giving (and receiving), the cards, the films and all that comes with it. Christmas, to me, is a time for appreciation, and after it comes that golden opportunity for reflection that is New Year's Eve, which I also love. More on that in my next post.
I'm incredibly privileged to have the family I have, allowing for Christmas to be as joyful a time as it is for us. We have countless traditions that have evolved and changed over the years, as our family has evolved and changed and in a way each Christmas is simultaneously the same and totally different. This year will be my second time spent away from my family, and my first time hosting. It'll be just me, my other half and my brother (so I suppose it's not entirely away from family), but it will be different. Tonight, I sit on the last day of my pre-Christmas visit to my parents, grandmother, my sister and her family and I feel incredibly grateful for all of them. Instead of missing out, I've been given a stretched out Christmas, in a way. It's been stressful, cold and dark, but it's also been warm, wonderful, and delicious (thanks mum and dad for the mountain of food!). I've already been involved in the decoration of two Christmas trees and I've been able to spend some quality time with a lot of the people I care most about.
This year, I've attempted to refrain from getting caught up in the madness, with the intention of giving myself a less stressful Yuletide, but despite my efforts I've found myself worrying. Such is the case with general anxiety disorder. And such is the case with Christmas a lot of the time. Have I remembered everyone? Have we sent the cards early enough? Are the presents I’m giving good enough? Have I spent enough? Or too much? Will I manage to see everyone before Christmas? And the ultimate terror of disappointing anyone. With the pressure of being in the festive spirit and the cold, dark days Northern Europe has to offer, it can be a difficult time, and I've definitely felt that this year. It's made me think about why I love this time of year and, to be totally clichéd, what Christmas is all about.
I know others think the same things and ask themselves the same questions I do, as if we care so much that we doubt others see how much we care. But maybe we need to trust that the people we love love us too and know us. They know we care about them and could never be disappointed by what we choose to give them. Or how the motif on the Christmas cards compared to last year's.
I'm incredibly lucky to have the close relationship to my family that I have, and to be surrounded by wonderful friends, both near and far away. Christmas gives us an opportunity and a reminder to tell the people we love that we love them, to remind ourselves of the things we are grateful for and showing our friends and family that we appreciate them. It gives us a chance to appreciate what we have and lend a hand to those who have less. We get to look at ourselves and the people around us and remind ourselves to be generous and kind. In the darkest time of the year, we dress our houses and trees in fairy lights, sing carols and spend time with each other. Especially now that I live quite far away from my family, Christmas becomes an important part of staying close regardless.
It can be a stressful and anxiety inducing time. It can be lonely. The fairy lights can be blinding and the carols deafening, so let's not forget to be kind in the midst of the madness. Let's not forget what truly matters to us in our hunt for perfection. In this post I felt a need to stop and reflect on this hectic time, and I'm not sure of its coherence, but to anyone reading this, I thank you. I see you, I hear you and I wish you a peaceful Christmas.