I’m going to be honest. I have always loved Christmas. Looking back on my childhood, I remember the magic of Christmas. From attending Noddy parties, and getting my first gift of the year from Father Christmas, and the fairy whom we have to help turn on the lights once the Golliwogs have switched them off. And then the search for the Christmas tree, and then decorating it, including using cotton wool to make snow. And when I was a little older, being able to write letters to Father Christmas to ask for what I wanted. Christmas movies. It really was a magical time.
But what I didn’t see was the challenging family dynamics that was underlying every Christmas lunch. My parents and aunts and uncles were all divorced, so it is a logistical nightmare to plan for the adults, because which year do the kids go to which parents. I very rarely saw my father’s side of the family, which looking back is a challenging dynamic in its own. His brother would also visit every year, and my ma refused to acknowledge his presence, a tension I felt then, but only understood once I was old enough. I rarely saw my sister for an extended period of time, which I only understand now was because she’s not a fan of Christmas, because of these difficult dynamics.
And as an adult, once the magic was gone, it really was gone. I have some difficult Christmases that I look back on, some where I’ve spent the afternoon crying, or where I spent the day angry with something my father did. Or the year where I just felt really bad for my niece because she bore the brunt of the difficulties my brother and father were experiencing. Christmas is not magical. It takes all those family dynamics we avoid for most of the year, and then amplifies it on that one day in the year where we are forced to spend hours together and share a meal.
Christmas is hard as an adult. We stress about having the perfect Christmas lunch, and buying the perfect gifts for everyone we love, and making sure we look good for that one day. The expense for that one day is astronomical, and doesn’t make sense, but we do it every year.
Christmas is a trigger for many people. It’s a time of severe loneliness for many people, where they are reminded of how lonely they are. It’s a time when we also remember the people we are not seeing because they are no longer with us.
But when we strip it all away, the real magic of Christmas lies in who we spend it with, and making sure that we spend our time with people who uplift us. And that we don’t feel obligated to see family that do not make us feel good about ourselves. We need to hold that boundary, and not allow an expectation of Christmas time being a family holiday, if our families only bring bad feelings. And acknowledge that it is ok to spend Christmas by yourself, and treat yourself to a special day. Eat a special meal, pamper yourself.
However you spend Christmas and the festive season, whether it’s with others or by yourself, but make sure at the end of the day you are doing things that uplift you and make feel good. This year, the best gift you can give yourself is self-care.
Look after yourself, and we’ll chat again in 2021.