Being kind of Jewish, we didn't have Christmas when I was growing up. We had Hannukah (or Chanuka etc) instead, which was great, actually. I remember it as a really cosy idyllic family moment when it's dark outside and the fire is roaring in the hearth and we're all sitting around together. I'm sure it must have happened like that...
Anyway, I remember vividly the scorn I felt each January on returning to school. There was an annual competition to see who had the best Christmas presents. A bike? Just for Christmas? A telly? We didn't even have a telly and you got one just for you, for your bedroom? A video player?!
I told myself they were spoiled brats and materialism couldn't bring you happiness. So I told myself.
Throughout my university years I never went home for Christmas. I stayed behind and worked for double pay at Pizza Hut trying to guilt customers into bigger festive tips, and fed my friends' pet rabbits while they were away. I had a brilliant time.
Although I had no interest in Christmas, apart from the Christmas television schedule (I had one by now), I couldn't help feeling a self indulgent longing as I walked past houses with fairy lights and a warm glow seeping through the curtain gaps. It was mostly pretend longing though, like staring wistfully out of train windows when you're absolutely fine. I wonder how much of my life I live as if I was the central character in a film?
Fast forward to grown up years in grown up relationships - I am actually married I have to remind myself - and I finally do have a Christmas. Having done my best to resist joining in, I find myself actually enjoying the family get togethers and holidays-are-coming feeling. I love the communal cooking and the big family dinner and the stupid hats. I like sitting around afterwards with everyone, drinking wine and eating cold roasties until it hurts.
What I don't like is the presents. And here is the rant I've been building up to.
Firstly the pressure. I have been feeling it for months already and it's only just November. What the hell are we going to get everyone? The closer we get the more the panic sets in.
Secondly the guilt. What if our present doesn't match up to their present? Or what if our present totally crushes their present and they feel guilty? Either way you can't win, I feel the guilt.
Thirdly the cost. The more the panic and impending guilt sets in, the more likely I am to just buy something expensive to make up for lack of time and creativity. Cue more guilt.
Fourthly the sheer waste of it all. I would like to bet that the majority of Christmas presents go to that special unwanted present place in the sky. I'm not sure what's worse, giving a present that doesn't make the grade, or receiving one that doesn't. It's awkward. It makes me awkward. I don't know how to arrange my face.
I think I'd rather a more open system if we do have to do Christmas presents. Like a secret Santa type thing where you only buy one present for one person, and they buy one for someone else. Except it's not secret and you're allowed to confer. Wisdom of the crowds would hopefully help ensure that the present hits the mark.
Or alternatively everyone comes up with something that they want, and everyone else chips in to buy it for them. I spose the surprise element is somewhat missing though. But at least you'd get something useful, and you'd be contributing to something someone really wants. Warm smug glow.
Or what if we just all went out and bought ourselves something nice...
But this is my favourite idea: it's supposed to be the thought that counts right? So can't we just leave it at a thought? Let's all have a thought for each other and spend time together and enjoy each other. That's what I want for Christmas.
Oh and maybe a onesie.