crazyjane: (eclipse)
[personal profile] crazyjane


Did I mention that I utterly, utterly, hate Christmas?

Oh, I don't hate buying presents for the girls, and seeing the looks on their faces when they unwrap their gifts. Nor even the shopping, although that's become increasingly difficult in recent years - even when I'm racking my brains wondering what to buy, I enjoy that challenge.

But then, it's the same during birthdays.

And I don't really hate the assumption that I'm either (a) Christian or (b) 'culturally Christian' (ye fucking gods, what a concept) and therefore will be doing all the Northern Hemisphere, quasi-Christian bullshit that eclipses anyone else's traditions, and that I really, really like being told to have a merry Christmas as though it's actually required of me. That irritates the hell out of me, but at least I can model some different behaviour by responding, 'Hope you have a happy holiday'.

No, what I hate is the fucking expectation everywhere I go that Christmas is all about family, and tradition, and happy fond memories that I can pass on to my children.

Christmas is just another goddamn reminder that nothing about my childhood was even remotely similar to what I see all around me. The only reason we got together was because my Nan insisted, and even then it was best described as a token effort. We'd sit down to cold meat and salad from Coles. The nod to the 'season' came from my Nan's pudding, and even then, half the time it was only the two of us who ate it. We'd go to Nan's place for lunch, and by mid-afternoon we were home again and Dad was out the back helping my brother assemble his Xmas presents while my mother slept.

There was a tree, which was all for my brother. He got to direct what colour tinsel to use, and to put on his favourite ornaments, including the star at the top. That tree made its first appearance when my brother was four and I was ten. He asked if we could have one.

I used to watch my brother open his pile of presents and get all the things you buy for kids - games, a bike, the inevitable pairs of socks from distant aunties and uncles, things my parents asked him if he wanted. I'd always get something nice from my Nan, and god knows she tried hard, but she was too nervous to buy books for me, so it was usually a nice packet of hankies and maybe bubble bath. From my parents I got underwear and school clothes in one package. Nan used to pretend her gifts were from Santa when I was little. My parents didn't bother.

Sounds grinchy? Whingy? There are kids out there who don't get Christmas at all? Do I give a fuck right now?

When I converted to Christianity, I tried to make the holiday mean something. I sang in the choir, I went to Christmas services, I threw myself into decorating the house and helping make lunch. The response? My mother whined that hot roast meat was 'stupid', my father thundered that he wasn't going to have decorations 'all over the house'. They refused to come to the carols services with me, even when I scored a solo role singing a beautiful 'Magnificat', and scorned my beliefs. It wasn't until my brother said he'd like to put up more decorations than just the tree that my Dad agreed - and then helped my brother with enthusiasm, even buying some outdoor lights to go around the outside of his bedroom window.

Meanwhile my church was full of families wearing tinsel on their lapels and kitschy earrings with snowmen and bells. My friends told me about helping decorate their trees, how many family were coming for lunch, how they were going to Carols by Candlelight ... and even the stories of their elderly relatives snarking at each other after lunch sounded great.

Skip ahead to now ... I have a family of my own, and I'm grafted on to another, one with traditions and a commitment to the season - not for religious reasons per se, but as family time. My in-laws still put up a tree, long after their kids are grown and gone. They believe in being together, planning a good meal to which everyone can contribute. They even believe in making the effort to find gifts that will be meaningful for their intended recipients.

It's so completely fucking alien to me. I don't know how to be someone like that. I've tried to do a few things on my own, hosting the lunch one year and inviting people over for an open house chill-out in the evening. And I'm pretty good at pretending. But I watch news items on TV about the little girl whose Dad comes home from Iraq for Christmas and surprises her by dressing up at Santa ... I read about people eagerly planning for the day, taking part in community and church activities, organising 'Christmas drinks', impromptu carols, outings to drive the kids down The Boulevard to look at the light displays ... planning to pass on the traditions of their childhoods to their own kids, current or future hoped-for ... and it's nothing I understand.

Because Christmas for me was about pacifying my Nan and doing everything for my brother ... about making sure I knew I was an afterthought at best, an inconvenience at worst. After I left home, I kept sending Christmas cards, ones I'd chosen specifically for them and thought long and hard about what I'd write in them. Most of the time, I got nothing, not even an acknowledgment. On the rare occasions (two, from memory) I did get something back, it was a generic card in which my mother had simply written my name, and 'from Mum and Dad'. (I don't know why that still hurt; I was used to it, after all.)

When the Lilygirl and Meglet were born the cards came regularly - still with the non-message, and clearly aimed at kids, but at least they came.

So what? I should suck it up and put it behind me, right? I have another family now, I'm part of something 'healthy' and 'normal', I can start from the beginning and build something great for the kids.

Yeah. It'd be good if I spoke the language.
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August 2017

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