I wish I was boycotting Christmas, but I can’t.
I’ve threatened to “go bush” over Xmas for a few years now (both metaphorically and literally). This year, I naively thought I might really do it. No tree, no presents, no family, no food, no cakes, no carols. I was all for being the biggest Scrooge-Grinch and flying my anti-Xmas flag in the face of popular convention but it’s too hard.
I’ve been told that I’m obligated to “do Christmas” for my kids. My skin prickles about that. My son is 5 and my daughter 3, and boy, do they love a celebration. But to be honest, they’re just as excited at the prospect of hosting a BBQ with friends, getting a new lunch box, going to the Lake or riding on a train. The wonder and joy elicited by all the Christmas traditions can easily be sought by other means. A bush walk where we stop to wonder at tiny insects camouflaged on the tree. A trip to the swimming pool in NEW OCTONAUTS BATHERS. Making, and better, still eating jelly. But I guess we do those things all the time and Christmas is a once a year special event.
While I maintain that Christmas is only as exciting as we make it, when they’ve created a new play area at kinder resembling Santa’s workshop and they are learning carols, how can I win? It’s all-pervasive. I can’t avoid shopping because we have to eat. There are decorations in the street and ads on the radio. Every child’s television show has a Christmas special, and they are already starting to air. My friends have Christmas trees in their houses. People in the street ask what my kids want from Santa.
I hate that entitlement Christmas breeds in children. I just buy things that we need when we need them, and give my children (or anyone else for that matter) presents whenever I feel like it. There’s something weird to me about pretending presents we buy for our children come from a magical stranger. I don’t like buying into the capitalist messaging rife at this time of year. I don’t want to feel obligated to buy someone something. I’m definitely not a Christian, nor do I make a habit of celebrating a festival for religions that I do not follow. So I just don’t get it.
I’ve always maintained that tradition is a bad reason to keep doing something. A lot of what “doing Christmas” entails flies in the face of logic. Maybe I’m a cold emotionless cynic but I don’t understand wanting to cook and eat a roast dinner in the height of the Australian summer. Or putting up an incessantly annoying carol-playing light show that skyrockets your power-bill and you can only enjoy at 10pm at night thanks to Daylight Savings. Or using your hard earned money to buy every person you are blood related to a gift even though you hate them and/or barely know them. Or travelling cross-country with infant children so you can visit two different sides of your family in a single day.
We all know that Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, every year. Considering in the last 12 months I’ve moved house, broken up with a partner (on top of already being separated from the father of my children), have unresolved health concerns including an anxiety diagnosis, and I’m a single mother trying to make a living from being a writer, I really don’t need the seasonal stress.
But not doing Christmas is like banging my head against a big tinseled brick wall. And I don’t need that stress either.
So I struck a deal with my kids today. We agreed to disagree about Santa’s existence. I maintained that people can believe different things and enjoy stories that aren’t really true. My son maintained that his kinder teacher knew Santa and my daughter was reliably informed that he would be coming to her daycare. We agreed that Santa couldn’t physically bring presents to our house (no chimney, Mum), and we didn’t really know him. But we did know and love each other so we would get each other some presents instead. I asked if they wanted a surprise or to choose their own. They wanted to choose so we went off to Kmart. We already have a home-made play tree which I agreed they could make decorations for. Nan offered to get her box of supplies down from the cupboard too.
We might still go bush. Take that walk, look at some insects. We’ll probably eat jelly (while I try not to gag on my aversion to it) and we might find a quiet watering hole to take a swim in. But we’ll end up creating our own weird little Christmas traditions based on a compromise between Mum The Cynic and the logic-free wonderment of little children. And I guess if it keeps me calm and my kids happy, then who the hell cares?
Merry Christmas, or whatever this is.