MY BEST memory of Christmas was one Christmas Eve when my sisters and I were just trouping off to bed when my dad, who was splitting logs outside, called us all out into the snow in our jammies because he’d just seen Santa’s sleigh shoot across the sky. It was magical.
Fast forward 30 years and much of the magic for some people seems to have gone.
I say that not as a bah-humbug type of person, but because of the reaction I get from lots of work colleagues, friends and parents at the school gates when the impending festivities are mentioned.
Hardly anyone I’ve spoken to has said that they are either looking forward to Christmas or indeed that they are planning anything that they actually enjoy.
Many people just seem under pressure. Financial pressure to buy food like there is going to be a war on soon and to buy presents most of us don’t want and even fewer of us need. Family pressure to be somewhere and do something dictated by someone else and enjoy it. Menu pressure to cook the perfect turkey (and enjoy it).
One person said to me: “We just have to get through Christmas Day and then we’ll be fine.” They were referring to the presence of a particularly vile family member they had to endure. The point is, though, once they get through Christmas Day, Christmas is over.
Any festival or ritual will change over time and will be enjoyed in different ways by different people, but some people seem to put themselves under massive pressure to conform to some formulaic ideal of what Christmas should be. Not only that, but they often feel at liberty to project that pressure on to others.
Some single friends I know, who live on their own, have to constantly reassure family and friends that they will indeed be OK by themselves; that they do in fact enjoy their own sofa, food and choice of movies like they do the rest of the year. Others give in and spend a Christmas they don’t enjoy just to keep their family happy and stop them worrying.
The most calm and relaxed people seem to be the ones who treat Christmas just as the day it is and allow others to do the same. They either have their own way of doing things or else they enjoy the traditional Christmas because it is what they want to do.
A prime example is my little sister, who loves everything about the festive season and once took the Nigella Christmas experience so far that she even bought the red silk nightwear made famous in the cook’s TV series a few years ago to add to her recipes’ authenticity.
Christmas can be special in all sorts of ways, but it shouldn’t be a burden. You can never get back the magical feeling of just missing Santa and his reindeer as they disappeared over the roof of the house, but it can still be fun.