I don’t remember any Christmas’ in my first house before I was 10. I do remember a few houses along, when mum was so stressed out in general life that the pressure of the holidays meant she was exhausted and one glass of prosecco wiped her out by 11am. I remember when my little brother was born and I was so excited to have a kid in the family, but then he got really sick and I spent the whole week worrying about him. I remember my parents talking about cancelling Christmas because it was just too hard.
Then I grew up, and I moved away, and the hospitality life took over. I worked through most of the season, including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day (I guess you could say I was lucky enough to get the actual day itself off). It was busy and customers got mean. I still never had enough money to buy the presents I felt people deserved. Having a boyfriend, a fiancé, and then a husband came into play. Two celebrations! One with the new and wonderful stresses of having to buy people I didn’t know well presents and try and fit in with their bizarre traditions. I tried so hard that the first time I spent Christmas Day with them, I was tricked into eating game pate and threw up, a lot, on the way home. They all went pheasant shooting on Boxing Day and apparently, rather than ask me why I didn’t want to join, they figured it was appropriate to somehow induct me with this secret feeding. “You ate pheasant! One of us! One of us!”. (They never actually chanted. I’d imagine they would think that far too common). After that, things did get better. They weren’t exactly welcoming at the yacht club, but at least they left me alone. Last year, I had a terrible break up in November and it was still weighing on me heavily all over Christmas. I actually had 3 days off for the first time since I was 16, and had intended to spend the majority with him. Instead I sat on my parents sofa (also my bed at the time) and drank about 2L of gin.
My family can’t deal with a lot of interaction, and my mum usually works at least part of Christmas Day. My friends go off in all directions to their own families and have their own stupid traditions to stress about. It’s actually a very lonely time for me. I love my family and I love spending time with them, but this forced obligation just brings out the worst in everyone. No wonder customers were always mean around December. I have a weird family, but we do get on. We leave out the extended family, because it’s just more obligatory pressures and we stopped buying presents for each other a few years ago. Things should be better, they should be more simple and less stressful, but every year it’s something new.
I have a very different friendship group from this time last year and navigating the gift thing is always a game of nuance and mind games. The amount of people that have expressed sadness for me if this is the first Christmas they’ve known me makes me question my feelings. As if I should enjoy the whole crazy Christmas shopping experience, despite the busy shops, lack of money and zero originality about the whole thing. But when I check in with myself I realised that all the good things that Christmas is to everyone else is a part of my every day life. I make the effort to spend quality time with the people I love, I surprise them with gifts to let them know I think about them, I dress up and use too much glitter all the time, and I probably eat and drink too much of what I want every day of the week. So don’t feel sad for me. I don’t hate the holiday, it’s just that every day is better than Christmas. Especially without the garish wrapping paper and tacky decorations.