Every year as the days, weeks and months fly by and Christmas approaches, I watch as those around me slip into a crazed, festive frenzy. It seems to begin with the television (that I don’t own and don’t watch) advertising reminding us that there are only so many days until Christmas. Retailers incite this festive insanity with constant reminders of what Christmas “should” be.
This year I wanted it to be different.
Let me take you back to the Christmases of my childhood. They were the definition of festive insanity. It would begin very early in December with my mother decorating the entire house and putting up an overly embellished Christmas tree. In terms of decorating, I do believe that less is more, however my mother seemed to go with “the more, the merrier”. The photo (below) doesn’t come close to showing the extent of the decorating. Typically the decorations overflow from the lounge room and spread (to a lesser degree) throughout the house.
As children, my younger brother and I were required to help decorate the house. It would take a entire day to do this as well as assembling the tree. By the time I was sixteen I felt like I’d faced too many years of such torture and flatly refused to help. I was supposed to help my mother decorate when she was the only one interested in doing so and then help take it all down once Christmas was over. I repeatedly tried to explain to her how extravagant and unnecessary this exercise in festive decorating was, but it fell on deaf ears. I’d remain in her “bad books” until I agreed to help, or if I was too late – an apology was received.
My Christmas tree is much smaller and quite simple. My house is not festooned decorations. You could walk into my house and actually have no idea that it’s Christmas time.
The one delight and one thing I miss about family Christmases now is the food. My mother was, generally, an excellent cook and she never failed at Christmas. I don’t have photos of the amazing feasts we used to have, but let’s see if words will fuel your imagination. We had a six seater dining table that would be covered with a table cloth (the only time we ever used one) and absolutely laden with food. Home made mince pies made with puff pastry and loaded with fruit mince. Sausage rolls, from a recipe my mother only had in her head, that were mouth wateringly delicious and never in short supply. There was usually a a ginormous turkey along with pigs in blankets and roast veggies for a late Christmas lunch. Leftovers, potato chips, cakes, lollies etc. were eaten for the rest of the day. Dinner was whatever you wanted to make out of leftovers! It was an amazing day for food in my family.
Christmas, now, is typically spent with one of my brothers, his wife and son who live nearby. I no longer have contact with my parents and no other siblings live nearby, although I do keep in touch with them. It’s usually quiet with minimal decorations and minimal presents. Food is all in moderation with none of my mother’s traditional british cooking. I have few photos of Christmases spent with my brother and his family because, for most of them, I was constantly struggling with the eating disorder that continues to make reappearances. Christmas, then, was a painful and overwhelming time of year. I do, however, have one photo of me on Christmas morning with their dog Chicken (the story behind his name is for another time!)
Christmas, this year, has been very different. Firstly – no family. Secondly – stress free. I did hesitate in writing “stress free”, but honestly, it has been! That is a Christmas miracle. I opted to spend Christmas with a friend who lives a couple of hours away and both of us had the goal of making Christmas as stress free as possible. No expectations, no pressure to be “normal”, “happy” or even “okay”, no crappy small talk and no pointless comparisons between distant relatives about who’s working more, earning more, has a better relationship, has children (or not)… and it goes on. NONE of that was going to happen. Just two friends, good food, no pressure, no stress and lots of laughter!
Our Christmas day breakfast as delicious (and healthy) and lunch was amazing as well. There was no panic over having to eat at a certain time and the turkey not being read by then. There was minor panic over having run our of milk for our coffees but that was easily fixed (yay for 7-11 being open!).
Despite Christmas usually being incredibly stressful time of year and one to be survived, this year has been amazing. It has, honestly, been stress free and more relaxed than any Christmas I remember. I’m not waiting for Christmas to be over or hanging out to go home. I’m happy to curl up on the couch with my laptop whilst my friend watches cricket and I’m actually a little sad to be heading home tomorrow.