Usually the moment 30 November turns into 1 December a scream of ‘noooo’ starts dominating my internal monologue. This scream is punctuated by dark rumination and expletive-heavy rage. The latter will feature when I pound down Oxford Street on 23 December, throwing money at random outlets knowing my non-materialistic family will, at best, be moderately pleased with the results.
I liked Christmas when I was a kid. Only when I became an adolescent did the Scrooge rise up within. The day was spent with mum, dad, brother, granny, aunt, uncle and two cousins. We only saw my dad’s side of the family once a year, on Baby Jesus Day. It struck me as ridiculous that at a time earmarked for cosy familiarity we were politely exclaiming, ‘really?!’ at details we should already have known.
My eating disorder after it developed put the kybosh on Christmas Dinner. A bleak awareness that my cousin had identical bathroom habits tempted me to recreate the maniacal laughter of the Cape Fear cinema scene. ‘We’re clichéd teenage screw ups!’ I wanted to bellow between merry snorts.
But the thing about Christmas is, even if your humour usually runs as black as snake venom, there is a ridiculous pressure on this particular occasion to keep everything ‘nice’. So I didn’t do a Robert De Niro – and, to this day, have yet to tattoo ‘love and ‘hate’ on my knuckles either.
Christmas has changed a lot since these awkward family feasts. My dad’s sister and her side of the family no longer appear at the table. In their places are people that mean more; my mum’s sister, a close family friend, his long-term girlfriend. It’s smaller, kinder, less formal… and my mum’s death has created an appreciation for remaining loved ones.
Lest you think I’ve gone sappy, let it be known my mellowing approach to festivities, this year in particular, is down to a strategic approach to partying. Genius ex-school-pals held a massive and joyful bash on 8 December. With an Xmas success under the belt so early in the Christmas month, the rest has felt more manageable, like when an underdog gets an early serve break against a tennis titan. Another Xmas party and a steady stream of mulled wine has kept my mood up – the underdog has wrangled a set.
So it seems getting a Christmas you don’t hate involves cherry picking from the tide of TBC (Typical Behaviours of Christmas) whether that means only writing cards to the people you care about or boycotting television with its inane stream of themed ads or counting mulled wine as a valid option to tea and coffee. But it seems there will always be a certain amount of pressure and obligation involved. Unless you are my friend David whose family no longer ‘do’ presents. As I pound Oxford Street on 23 December, my expletive-laden inner commentary shall be mainly leveled at him. (Sorry David…)
Image by wolfsavard courtesy of Flickr