The silly season.

I don’t like Christmas. Christmas makes me stressed.

Before you call me the Grinch, be informed that I’m not interested in going around breaking into houses and stealing presents. That would be horrible. But, try as I might, I just can’t get into the whole spirit of spending way too much money on too much crap, and too much food.

Oh look, we’ll go through the motions. I’ll go and spend stupid amounts buying up stuff that I think/hope the girls will like, for the sake of them having some surprises on Christmas morning – for the sake of getting stuff from Santa. But, geez – it is such a hit and miss affair.
I hate to think of all the stuff I’ve bought that has been relegated by them to the ‘meh’ pile over the years. Books they might not have liked. DVDs they just haven’t watched. Who knows how many craft items that didn’t turn out to be that interesting to them.

Maybe I’ve just done it all wrong.  With kids who weren’t particularly keen on the concept of sitting on Santa’s knee, I never encouraged the ‘I Want’ list anyway, and kind of went with the idea of surprises in the Santa sacks on Christmas morning. (Is that called making a rod for your own back?)

So every year I do all the shopping, all the “balancing”, trying to make it look (by volume, quantity and value) that each of the three of them have been treated the same by bloody Santa. Every year Himself will raise his eyebrows, as he has done so for the past 15 years (particularly when we’ve travelled away at Christmas and I’ve had to pack and stash an extra suitcase.) And, as usual, he won’t wrap a single thing and trying to drag him into discussions about what to get each of them will be like trying to get blood out of a stone.

Yet when I talked to him today about how much longer to continue the illusion, he said we should continue at least another year or two, for the sake of Ms 11 – at least till she’s in high school – because we don’t want her to grow up too quickly.


Onwards then.

So, why do I feel so.. blah.. about it all? Why, this week as I plied my way through the already crowded, tinselled and Christmas crapified shopping mall, did I feel an overwhelming sense of despair? Honestly, I just felt like crying.

I don’t really know the answer.

It’s not that I had an awful childhood or anything – although my father was quite possibly less into the whole Christmassy vibe than my husband is. So my mother carried it all to the best of her ability, and she is certainly the first to show her disapproval at my unChristmassy tendencies.”For the sake of the children” and all that.

[No, I’m not religious, and neither are my parents. And so, yes, I battle with the hypocrisy of it all – the general hypocrisy because Santa has nothing to do with Christianity, and my own hypocrisy, because I’m not interested in celebrating Christmas for any religious reasons, so why do I do it at all?]

Hypothesis #1: Making it really Christmassy requires the enthusiastic input of both parents, or rather ‘all’ parents – meaning not that two parents are required, but that 100% of parent/s need to be ‘into it’. {In my case, I have a double whammy. My father didn’t get into it, and my husband doesn’t get into it, except to say “Oh, we should really put the tree up”, and “Oh, we should have something special to eat for lunch”.}

Hypothesis #2: Childhood experiences could have something to do with it. Psychotherapy anyone?

What are my major memories of Christmas as a kid, then?

Well… (she says, trying to make herself comfortable on the couch) … we’d wake up to Santa presents, have breakfast, and then we would exchange presents with immediate family. Then we’d have to get ready to go to the relatives (or have the relatives come to our place.)

Christmas lunch each year was rotated between my maternal relos’ houses – which included my grandparents till it was deemed too much for them. So that was each of my uncles, plus us. Whoever’s house it was at usually had one or some of their in-law’s, and so it was that we usually got to have a Christmas day with, basically, someone else’s relatives.

Everyone would bring a plate, and a hot Sydney Christmas would, without exception, involve a buffet lunch of cold meats and all sorts of salad. Only one relo (eventually) had a pool – so my memories are usually of sweltering away somewhere in outer Sydney. No such thing as air conditioning in those days.

As everyone arrived the presents would be added to the pile under the tree. When everyone finally got there, and enough drinks and nibblies were consumed, and the kids had nagged enough, we’d eventually be allowed to ‘do the presents’.  Those of us kids who were old enough (to read the tags, and to be mature enough to be capable of waiting to get to our own presents – for a long time that was me and my sister, as we were quite a bit older than our cousins) got to be the present distributors. Then, during about 15 minutes of mayhem, everyone would rip open their presents, say thank you to the giver, and, then disappear, leaving piles of wrapping paper litter, while the mums frantically tried to clean up, keep tabs on each kid’s pile of loot (and who gave them what), while at the same time helping with serving out the lunch.

We always had buffet style, plates of cold meats and various forms of salad. Always chicken, ham. Sometimes turkey. Some sort of other roast meat, sliced. Potato salads, green salads, rice salads….

I always remember being fairly underwhelmed by having to have a plateload of all this stuff, usually on a paper plate, with plastic cutlery. You would feel obliged to try a bit of everything, lest you offend someone.  You’d be full as googs, because you’d filled up on chippies and nuts, because  lunch hadn’t happened till around 3.00 in the afternoon.

And there was always so much left over. The worst thing was when Christmas was at your place, you knew you’d be eating bloody ham and potato salad that night for dinner, as well as lunch and dinner for the next few days.

I have two standout memories of the whole Christmas relative interaction thing though.

The major one was to do with my grandmother, who would sit there hunched over her unopened presents, trying to watch everyone as they opened the present from her. “Do you like it?” she’d ask. “Look me in the eye and tell me.”….. She would insist that she’d change it if you didn’t like it, but we all knew that it was far easier to lie if we had to, rather than go down that road. Learning to lie skilfully to Nan was a skill honed over many Christmases.  Having to be overly earnest and enthusiastic about something that was standardly ok was also a developed skill.

My other major memory had to do with one uncle’s mother-in-law. To this day I still remember saying hello as we arrived simultaneously at my uncle’s house. She asked the standard question asked of most children throughout the (western) world, no doubt, on Christmas day: “What did you get from Santa?” As usual, I recall my sister and I reeling off a list of what we’d scored in our Santa sacks that morning.

“Well, you’re spoilt brats then, aren’t you,” she said.

I was taken aback then – it rather spoilt that particular Christmas Day for me – and it has stayed with me, in the back of my mind, to this day.

(To be continued.)



Filed under stress of the season

6 responses to “The silly season.

  1. Linda

    dear oh dear what memories! Maybe that is why we go through the rituals, for our kids to winge about when they get older.
    That particular uncle’s mother in law sounds a hoot, NOT!

  2. Wait!
    Were you forced to stay awake to listen to the Queen’s message on the idiot box?
    Tell Himself if he feels these things ought to take place then he ought to make ’em happen cos the bluebird of happiness, Santa and all the drunken elves just gave you Christmas off 😉

  3. Thankfully, Jayne, with an anti-monarchist upbringing (as well!), I never had to suffer through the Queen’s whatever.

  4. I am not a hugely Christmassy person – made up for by my family, immediate and extended.

    I loved it as a kid – nowadays its all about money…

  5. I think I just need to get some of those stress pills you’re advertising 🙂

    I never even had a tree until Boo was born!

  6. Jeanie, I could probably get away with it if my extended family were as awesome as yours!

    MissyBoo, if you can find a supplier, let me know. All I’ve been able to find are the pictures.

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