The signs are appearing that it is almost that time of year again. The elves are appearing in the shop windows, there’s a Santa up at the shopping mall dressed inappropriately for the weather waiting for a queue to appear, and there are pretend robot polar bears scattered about.
So why has Christmas become a consumer’s dream and a frugal minimalist’s nightmare? It seems that unless you attend a religious service on Christmas Eve or the day itself, you likely are more devoted to the gods of food and presents than anything else. The statistics are fuzzy here, but it appears that the religious aspect of the season is not the main point for the majority of revellers.
Even the importance of the date itself is contentious among historians (though it must be said that historians and the bible have rarely been friends). In fact the origins of Christmas are themselves a source of great argument among scholars and religious leaders alike. If Christmas were a person, people would say, “Ooh, that Christmas, it has a chequered past you know”. Those pagans knew how to party but they also did it at the expense of any minority or subjugated race that happened to be around. Let’s not go there though, it was called Saturnalia in Roman times and let’s just say it wasn’t all love and sleigh bells.
To get a bit more warm and fuzzy about it, consider how many people spend the day together and make a real effort to make it special. Kids get a present or twenty, adults have the excuse to cook amazing and large amounts of food and indulge in special digestives such as seafood, ham, roasts and maybe even pudding with brandy butter, or perhaps a pavlova. Sure there might be a few fights here or there between those cousins that don’t get along or the kids who got uneven presents, but it’s all in the name of Christmas, right?
So what is the day other than what we make of it? We bring our diverse experiences of Christmas from our childhood and we combine it with our present situation and hopefully create something good out of it. The meaning we give it is usually a combination of what we have done on that day in the past (mixed with nostalgia) and what we would like to make of it for our family, whether conventional or alternative.
Personally, I’ve had some years of no Christmas, some traditional roast dinners, some “orphans” lunches, some a bit lonely right up to these days with the whole family sitting around the table whilst I cook a huge sustainable feast with handmade menus. Each scenario had its merits as well as their tricky moments, all have been enhanced in their significance because of they day on which they occurred. As a grown up, I’ve often felt that really it was just another day that I had put a lot of pressure on. Having said that, I still remember the day my Dad created a maze of string and notes all over his loft to lead me to my new roller skates with rainbows and red wheels. How awesome is that?
The experience of our self-created Christmas madness is completely up to us. We can race around, give ourselves a nervous breakdown, spend the deposit for the house we might have bought, or the holiday we probably deserve and still have an average day. Alternatively, we might spend very little money and have the most beautiful Christmas day ever because we picked local flowers off the street and ate a simple meal with a great group of people that we love.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been naughty or nice, you choose your own Christmas adventure. May you choose well for yourself and those you love and may you enjoy the best that the summer has to offer in whatever culture-appropriate way you can. May you find meaning in small and personal ways and may you have a merry, happy, relaxed season ahead.
Alena is a writer, mother, entrepreneur and educator who’s never met a dolphin she didn’t like. Get more at http://www.soulmammablog.com