16 December 2012
social commentary Sunday . . . 'tackling the pressure of Christmas'
Seasons Greetings all,
Now I love a good festive activity & grateful exchange of love, stories, family time, however, I’m not religious – Christmas for me is about bringing a year to an end, reflecting, relaxing & raring to go for another year. Depending on where we’re living & if my husband is home, we might do a fully-sparkling-real-Christmas tree with full decorations; be visiting family interstate; or have a quiet family lunch at home. We keep the Christmas gifts to a minimum & focus on each child’s birthday as a special time to receive goodies (evenly paced throughout the year!!) As a newly wed, I diligently hand wrote Christmas cards to everyone we knew, we had a new life in tropical Darwin to share; 2 years later we had a baby to blab about; another 2 years later ‘twins’ to show off; & another 2 years later . . . a fourth child to celebrate . . . that was 2004, the last year I sent cards. I don’t mind the Christmas newsletter email (no paper waste) but please don’t ask me to log onto a website to download your message.
The pressure to spend – an ill disguised reserve-bank-interest-rate-cut-to-stimulate-the-retail-economy = the message “BLOW it on Christmas shopping” not “save it & pay off your mortgage sooner” as that would be sensible. My children have never asked for the latest or greatest toy blazoned on the cover of those chain store catalogues. I love that they have politely suggested they would like activities (books, board games, craft) & equally politely explained to me that clothes don’t count as gifts. At least they know the difference between needs & wants!!
I don’t mind Christmas carols sung properly. . . sexy Christmas songs make my skin crawl & don’t get me started on sexy elves or a sexy Mrs Claus. Advent calendars are a fun concept, we had them growing up with a chocolate per day. In Summer?? Molten chocolate welding a cardboard door you can’t open without a box cutter?? I like the new tact clever mums are using with “a family activity suggestion” behind each door, but I’d actually prefer my children to discover “a December chore to complete” . . . it’s bush fire hazard reduction time, school bags need to be emptied & swimming pools are full of Funnel Web Spiders!!
So everything is done & dusted, your husband is on leave, children on holidays, you literally have nothing to other than relax - in the cool change of the evening - with some television viewing, only it’s non rating season & it’s all rubbish. Australia has recently gained more channels on free-to-air television . . . unfortunately dedicated to extending home shopping/ sports/ repeats/ news. Australia has very few Christmas themed movies, they’re ignored anyway, the choices are 1950’s American movie classics or 1990’s jovial ‘unfunny’ versions (complete with snow/ gift panic/ missing reindeer/ alcoholic Santa/ dysfunctional family “reuniting & saving Christmas”, yawn) . . . or be punished with A Christmas Carol, again. Thank goodness gifts might include board games, books & the wonderful DVD series of your favourite shows!!
I do the Christmas shopping well in advance as I make better gift choices & the retail staff aren’t homicidal from listening to festive music. The car parks become mine fields & just today at our local shops . . . a toddler was hanging around the top of the escalators, so I ushered him out of the way & tried to identify his mother – who came screaming over like I was a kidnapper. Well yes, stranger danger but seriously, Mums – watch your children!! We’ve witnessed a child fall to his death from the top of an escalator at a shopping centre, it happens!! His mother was distracted. I have noticed - the shops are EMPTY - it’s no wonder gift cards are the hot item, you can’t go wrong & get great value in the sales. Some argue it's thoughtless & 'just' cash, well, the thrill of Christmas gifts left me when i started earning my own money, mind you, my husband still surprises me, & it's not with a gift card!!
Finally, the all-consuming-all-day-lunch . . . my Mummy is English & granted we spent every second Christmas in Europe, so hot turkey, ham, pork, 15 vegetables & a massive pudding seems suitable, so long as we’re running a marathon before dinner, it is freezing Winter outside. I’ve only ever seen my mother swear & slam the oven door . . . you guessed it . . . on Christmas day. It was a military operation for her, the dining table was set a week in advance & we’d all have a polishing/ cleaning/ folding/ primping job. We are a large family but the world’s biggest turkey which takes forever to cook . . . why can’t any host born after say 1960 just admit it’s a tough meat to master, swap it for two small turkeys or something they are used to perfecting, like chicken!! Do we really need ham & pork too?? Our family got so big (14 grandchildren) so as my parents got older, even though they had 4 capable married children (8 extra pairs of adults hands) they hired staff to serve us. We had pork in a Weber BBQ; ham in the kitchen oven & turkey in a commercial oven installed in the old billiard room downstairs, for big catering events. Add to that 22+ people & the fact it’s 35C outside, all we wanted to do was swim!! Our Christmas lunch commenced with champagne & seafood, however, we’d still be very happy with one meat & sacrifice a dozen vegetables for lunch, so we genuinely had room for pudding served with lashings of brandy butter. As Mum relaxed with age, she’d let us swim before dessert & also let us help ourselves to cold cuts for dinner, she stopped martyring herself over every detail once she turned about 60. Hallelujah. That’s the spirit, friendly & happy.
When we build our homestead & have a farm, I imagine we’ll be staying home or hosting Christmas. Apart from the fact we live 200km from our nearest relative, going away for Christmas is a huge task + horror on the roads. We will have a traditional roast, perhaps we might raise our own reasonably-sized-turkey or tastey venison, served with seasonal vegetables from the garden & if the children have a specialty dessert or fantastic sauce they make, wonderful!! Specialty contributions, not strict traditions!! Just light & happy, with lots of swimming & genuine relaxation, unrushed & truly enjoying each other’s company.
I have never understood the pressure of having to attend lunch with one family & dinner with another, ON Christmas day. Especially with alcohol flowing freely. We have already said to our children – there are four of you, you’ll each have partners one day, with their family demands, spend Christmas with them if you wish & Boxing Day or another day in December with us – we are not scoring points on who is with us on the actual 25th of December. Just remove the pressure & stress off everyone, especially in a large network. I bet our Christmases as parents of adult children & grandparents will be wonderful celebrations.
Are you making changes on how to cope with crazy chaotic Christmas?? Love Posie