Christmas is a loaded holiday. Some of our earliest memories and home movies are of Christmas morning, sleepy eyed, and pajama clad stumbling down the hallway. Our parents sipped coffee, and sat back as some make believe man took all the credit for what they had done, what they had saved all year for. This season is filled with equal parts joy and anxiety– the hustle, the travels, the money, and the family time. But how do we sift through it? How can we distill the true essence of this season?
I recently watched How The Grinch Stole Christmas, and I realised that as per usual, Mr. Dr. Seuss had the message perfectly wrapped up inside of those rhymes. The only reason the Grinch is such an asshole is because thinks Christmas is nothing more than consumerism, gaiety disguised in gluttony. He tries to destroy Christmas by stealing presents because he doesn’t believe it could go on existing without them. But to his astonishment, they sing their songs anyway! And he realizes,
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags! … Maybe Christmas”, he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more.”
After all these years, this message sort of blew my mind. I was simultaneously shopping on Amazon and getting an ulcer over spending what little money I had on gifts my family probably didn’t even need or want.
I think my point here is the same as Seuss, the Grinch and Miss Cindy Lou Who, which is that we can’t disguise the message of this season, we cannot eat our feelings, and avoid our families by buying them things they don’t need. We have to let our expectations go, put down our reservations, and give into what these weeks truly want from us: silence and surrender of the unmistakable of feeling of making memories with the people we love. Because in ten years you will not remember the sweater, or the gift card, or the designer bottle of wine. But, you will remember the way your sister looked a few months pregnant, and how your parents held hands while you said grace, or how the air felt when you came home this year. All there is to truly want for Christmas is time. The beauty of the season is the space it carves into our insane lives, lives that are dictated by work and need and madness. The holidays, like it or not, are for one more dinner with your grandmother, for bringing your new love home, for eating cookie dough, for sleeping in. All I want for Christmas is for you to take a moment you can keep.
So, in this spirit we have brought together a few of our contributors here to share what makes their holiday season something to really celebrate.
Every year I have a Maltese Christmas and an Aussie Christmas.
The first is filled with 40 loud and chatty Maltese relatives (as well as a few British ring-ins that have joined our family forever). It also involves enough food to feed twice the amount of people present.
Instead of presents, at my Maltese Christmas everyone contributes to a charity nominated by the family hosting that year. I can’t remember where the idea came from, or when it began, but I love that post- Christmas- feast feeling that I get, when I hear where our ‘Christmas money’ is going- to the people it will hopefully help.
My second Christmas, the Boxing Day Christmas, is done in typical Aussie fashion- for the past few years it has been at my grandparents house on the south coast of NSW. We’ll have an amazing lunch, all cold meats and salads and wander on down to the beach for a gossip and a swim. We’ll go and watch whatever Lord of the Rings episode is out at the movies, we’ll take up a row or two at the cinema, my aunty will laugh loudly and my cousin will nudge me every time an Orc shows up. This, to me, is Christmas.
But then there was the quiet Maltese Christmas after my cousin passed away. I remember my parents hosted that one, a bunch of us cousins were chatting for hours on our verandah. We had grown up in each other’s pockets and had always been grateful for each other, but that year I’d say we felt it more. I remember just watching everyone and thinking about what my cousin would say if he were here, he’d probably sing to us, or make us laugh.
At Christmas it’s hard to move away from the great big holes left by missing members of our families, but I suppose that is what makes us even more thankful for the new babies, the exciting new jobs, the new relationships and the plain old-fashioned catchups. Celebrating together.
My family and I celebrate almost every special occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. Christmas is always a day that my family and I look forward to. We have a Kris Kringle tradition every year- all of us love surprise gifts. We put all the gifts under our Christmas tree and exchange the gifts after we have a our traditional Christmas dinner and enjoy a few glasses of wine.
One memorable Christmas that will always stay with me is a Christmas day when I was just a few years old and still lived in The Netherlands. On that Christmas morning, my brother and I were playing together, expecting the Sinterklaas (Santaclaus) to visit our house, as told by our parents. Suddenly, we heard something fall on the floor in the hallway. Our dad called us, saying, “it’s the Sinterklaas”! We ran to the hallway and were super thrilled discovering a big sack of Christmas gifts.
Apparently, our parents prepared all the gifts and put them in a big sack. Our dad then attached it to a string and pulled it up high in the ceiling the night before. In the morning, he pulled the string to drop the sack and create a loud noise so it sounded like Sinterklaas had dropped it from the roof. My brother and I got lots of amazing toys and had an unforgettable Christmas.
Since then I always expected Sinterklaas every year until my mom told me that Sinterklaas does not exist. And oh how I had wished that my mom had not told me the truth!
For the last twelve or so years, my two younger brothers and I have played a game of Monopoly together every Christmas Eve. It started as a way to pass the time until Christmas Day – everyone knows there’s no better way to waste six to ten hours. We play every year despite the fact that we know who’s going to win before we even deal our paper money – my middle brother is obscenely good at Monopoly. I don’t think I have ever beaten him. For years we joked that he must be cheating, because he often served as the banker. Eventually, after wasting another four or so hours of my life losing to him, one year I asked, frustrated, why he was so good. I probably expected him to look up amongst the red cordial and Chicken Crimpy Shapes, grin and say ‘I just am’. Instead he responded that he actually knew how to play the game. He knows which colour properties give the best return on your investment. He actually understands the numbers behind it.
This will be the first year since we started the tradition that we won’t be playing Monopoly together on Christmas Eve – my middle brother has volunteered to work over Christmas. He’s a croupier at The Star casino, where he deals in real money in exorbitant sums. So my sixteen-year-old brother and I will play together. Maybe we’ll play Scrabble this year instead. I’ll probably still lose – the other day, my youngest brother and I played a variant of Scrabble, where you ditch the board and get half the tiles each. He played ‘jurisprudence.’ I should probably just give up now.
We hope you have a Merry Christmas and eat lots of yummy food and hit the dance floor with your drunk aunties!
Here is the necessary Holiday Owl:
All images via Domestic Fashionista– check out her amazing table setting!