Families are busy making Christmas preparations as colder, darker days draw in here in London. There are wreaths going up on front doors, houses dressed in twinkling lights, pantomime tickets being booked, Christmas trees lugged in and decorated, and the constant ring of the doorbell as gifts arrive for loved ones.
If this sounds familiar, you’re one of the lucky ones.
I’m one of the lucky ones and conscious of the need to not be overwhelmed or grumpy about all the extra admin that falls this time of year.
The truth is, I used to love Christmas but I don’t anymore.
Covid resurgence in winter months doesn’t help. The new variant has driven up infection rates and the health of loved ones is an anxiety we all bear. I worry that my in laws might not make it here from Germany, despite all our hopes, and that it’ll be another Skype Christmas.
But it’s more than that. Does the magic of Christmas dwindle as we get older? I don’t think that’s it. I believe in magic and hope as much as I ever did. Is it the stresses of hosting and preparing when we’re adults? Perhaps I no longer feel free to switch off from work now I run my own business. Or maybe this inner grump is a rejection of the materialism of modern-day Christmas in this country. The pressure to buy when one thoughtful gift or kindness is enough. The waste and excess symbolised by overflowing bins in Christmas week. Or maybe the needling feeling that I’m not enjoying it is simply because this season is busy. It isn’t easy for those of us that need to recoup our energy in quieter ways.
When all else falls away, I remember the joy of running downstairs as a child to discover presents around the twinkling tree. I love Christmas movies and Doctor Who over the festive period. I love cocoa and open fires, and being buried under blanket forts. I love listening to carols, jut not too often. I love the squeals of delight from the children when they pull their Christmas crackers. I love giving gifts that I’ve guessed just right. Most of all, I love curling up with a book when my belly is full. In Iceland, Jolabokaflod is the tradition of giving and unwrapping new books on Christmas Eve, cozying up with family, and reading into the night. I always gift books in the hope this will happen. Maybe this year it will or maybe I’ll sneak into a blanket fort to do some reading of my own.
That’s just it.
It’s hard to make our celebrations suit our needs. There can be no perfect celebration when everyone involved has their own ideal. Perfect is the enemy of good. Sometimes it is enough to just let go, allow the current to take you and trust that it’ll turn out just fine. To count our blessings. To remember amidst the noise and overwhelm that we are lucky to have each other and many people miss their loved ones more than ever this time of year.
For me personally, a note to self: although I prefer online shopping to venturing into shops, Christmas is a different matter. When the pandemic is over, to limit the sense of overwhelm, I’ll brave the shops for one day during the festive period with a handwritten list of gift ideas. It’s far healthier for the heart, the environment and the wallet.
Wishing you all calm amidst the storm. Wishing you joy and good health.