Christmas Is Now

I hope everyone had a good day yesterday although I’m aware that this is absolutely not “the most wonderful time of the year” for a lot of people. And despite my attempted avoidance of all things Christmas (see my previous blog post), I did end up opening presents under a tree with my children at seven am and Santa is definitely gaining a foothold in reality. I had lunch with extended family at my grandmother’s house. The food was delicious, we spent the afternoon at the beach and the kids were enchanted by new toys and books given by generous members of my family.

I’ve been reading about Buddhism lately and thinking about the principles of Impermanence and Emptiness. Impermanence is about how everything – and everyone – changes all the time. Emptiness teaches us to actively challenge your biased thinking when approaching situations and people, because they will have changed since last time – and so will have you.

So with all of this in mind, I was less comfortable than ever at this annual family event. It seems odd to lunch with strangers once a year, pretending we all know each other based on an increasingly distant shared past. On that train of thought, a poem sprang to life.

Christmas Is Now
If I lunched with strangers
They’d ask me how I was
What I do for a buck
What fires me up
Where I got that dress and
Who does my hair
But these familiar strangers
Think they already know
So comfortable is their cushioned bias
They sit deep in the memory of me
Like the soft middle of the matriarch’s well-worn chair
I’m so strangely familiar
A ghost of Christmas past
My ageless form keeps getting invited back to lunch
My reality becomes the uninvited guest
Who refused to bring their platter of
Sweet-toothed custard-covered past
Nothing is the same since I was first brought here
Swaddled
I’ve had my heart broken
I’ve fallen down, and got myself back up again
I’ve grown two people inside my belly
I’ve lived a life they haven’t seen
But Christmas is now
Lift those paper crowns that obscure your view
Embrace the false gunshot pain
As paper crackers never stop delivering change
I’m sitting at the head of the table
Chewing too loudly
Asking to be treated like a stranger
Refusing to be the little girl who used to be me

25 December 2018

I Wish I Was Boycotting Xmas.

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.