Muddled memories of Christmases past haunt me into consciousness…
Now excuse me if I’m not being reverent
But I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Save me from my righteous doubt as I watch helpless
And everybody sings…
That’s from my favourite Christmas song, which is somewhat predictably called Christmas (Blues Traveler).
Anyone who’s ever known me around Christmas time knows that’s a favourite mostly because I’ve probably told them several times! Ever noticed how ‘favorites’ can take on different meanings over life? I guess that’s why they stay favorites, because they speak to you.
So what’s plaguing my consciousness now? And what does it have to do with this song I’m on about?
Well, Christmas actually.
I’ve been massively into Christmas for a very long time. Like two ornaments shy of entirely batshit obsessed. But lately, I’ve noticed that I’m just not feeling it anymore.
Think the👎🏽 might have started when my dad died a couple of years ago in November, casting somewhat of a dark shadow on general merriment. Since then, I’ve picked up the pace, and ‘gotten into the spirit’ so to speak. I cook my proverbial socks off for hordes of people during the Holidays, but that’s more my stress release mechanism than my ‘have fun’ MO.
Maybe it’ll come back, I said. Or maybe everyone only has a finite amount of Christmas cheer, and I’ve prematurely ejaculated all mine.🙈 Fuck knows! All I know is that I’m feeling moderately Grinch-like and unmotivated by anything this season. Truth be told, I am of an age where you question life’s ‘frills’. If this frill isn’t floating my boat I should move right past it, shouldn’t I?
Except, I have a 5-year-old. One that is massively into Christmas. And 5 is around when they metamorphose from terrorist toddler-blob to quasi-reasonable little human being. And I hate to shit on her dreams.
Ugh. So unpack this, I did. (Let’s channel some type of colourful mythical creature at all times 😉)
When I was very young, I don’t remember Christmas being particularly positive. Back then, my father had a drinking problem, and there were far too many ‘committed drinkers’ in the family for alcohol to ever be completely off the table. So he drank, and my mom stressed. Super fun energy, that. 🙄
As we grew older, those issues ceased to exist. Environments changed. Christmas was pretty austere because my family believed it was more about giving than receiving. Again, great life lessons but not high on the fun scale.
I grew up Catholic, in the tropics. We were more Christ, less Claus! Dads didn’t really do the dress-as-Santa thing where I’m from. Why would you when it was hot as a frying pan all year round? Santa, therefore, was saved for random social occasions, which involved extended circles. And that was usually the stuff of early teen girl (and boy, I now know) nightmares. Because Santa was typically a handsy old fuckwit dressed in clothes that smelled vaguely musty/mouldy. Because chances are if you were willing to wear that boiling hot suit, which had been stored away in a loft for 300-and-something-days, in 30+ temperatures, you were pretty hammered on the substance of your choice (alcohol, but it just sounded much more mysterious this way).
And hammered + uber conservative = typically handsy 🙈 (yup that’s the inflammatory equation I feel safe generalizing in this space).
A hard ‘no’ to those traditions, then! 🙅🏽
So Christmas only really became ‘fun’ for me when I ‘went off into the world’. Probably why I was so all over it as a relatively young adult. My Christmases away from home involved none of the austerity and thinly-veiled screams for help.
While they swayed wildly from head-covered-in-a-sari, at church, at midnight (don’t ask), to head-halfway-in-a-toilet-bowl, vom-ing at midnight (much more characteristic, but still a thing of the past); I did reach a happy medium that involved friends, food, and a tiny bit of giving back. The only overindulgence being retail and gifting. It’s to be understood. It was the glory days. More money than sense, shall we say?
Do I want to replicate those traditions? Errr… also no.🙅🏽
Hence, here I am at 41 then, not entirely sure what Christmas means to me.
As I sit here trying to think of how to redefine this gig to find some joy in it for my family (please not just another crappy item on the endless chore list!)… memories swirl in, and I try to colour them shiny like the pretty threads from Dumbledore’s Pensieve.
Things that happened. Made happy or sad by the way we feel about them.
I try hard to magic the black threads that tie my mind down into a happier colour.
Memories of my earliest experiences in the kitchen. My fascination with Christmas cake. The reason I know to cook today is because I fell in love with that warmth! those smells! the joy the things you could do in the kitchen brought to people.
Memories of my grandma making rose cookies (only the most fiddly cookie in the free world but she’d make it look like child’s play). Entirely unaware of her mad skills; shushing you into silence if you mentioned it.
Memories of endless guests pouring into the home I grew up in. Of my mother’s magical ability to make conversation and a meal with very, very little.
Memories of calling uncles and aunts from afar for what seemed like perfunctory conversations. But ones that linked and restored you for a quick few minutes; no matter what your personal thoughts were on the season.
Memories, more recently, of shining eyes asking how many sleeps to Christmas. Of a little girl unwavering in her commitment to the cause even after we told her that Christmas was about giving and helped her make peace with the idea of Santa giving her presents to kids who really needed them this year.
‘I want to buy into the benevolent’. Really, I do. I think it’s time for new traditions. We’ve had a child. We’ve moved to a new part of the world. We’ve lost half our parents. That shit is real. Not the fairy tales we believed in before. Traditions need to grow with people. So this year, we start over.
Just take a moment to absorb everything that’s happened, how far we’ve come, and how much further we have to go.
Then start chiseling this into what we as a family hope it will come to mean to us one day when we’re not hurt, cynical or broke.
Oh and cake! We must have cake.
‘I want to buy into the benevolent
And I was hoping for a miracle to hold me, wash me
Make me know what it’s about
As the longing in me makes me want to sing
Noel or Navidad
Season celebration or just the end of the year
Christmas can mean anything
And I mean to keep it’s hope forever near’
– Blues Traveler