Monday, December 23, 2019

Why Christmas will never be about presents for me

For me, Christmas films and hot chocolate top sun dresses and barbecues - every time. Admittedly, it's slightly less heartbreaking to climb out of bed when the sun is actually up and it isn't minus a billion degrees, but there's just something about this time of year when the air is peppermint-fresh and the shelves are stocked with cinnamon-spiced everything and baubles that twinkle.

I love Christmas in all of its frantic glory, but I know that not everyone speaks so fondly of the festive season. People find it too busy, too expensive, too much. And I get it, I really do. The pressure of gift-giving is something that I feel too, pressing at my shoulders when the first of December rolls around. How could it not when it's plastered everywhere we look - entire aisles dedicated to wrapping paper and ribbons for presents we haven't even bought yet, Gift Guides popping up left, right and centre on our web browser. It was only recently that I came to appreciate the irony of it all - how I find myself so swept up in buying the perfect gifts when, actually, Christmas has never been about presents for me.

At its heart, Christmas is nostalgia, magic, togetherness. Think about it - even the simple fact that the same songs play no matter who we are or where we are - the office, the supermarket, the local coffee shop - uniting us all with a chorus of Mariah Carey and Shakin' Stevens.

To me, Christmas is squeezing the whole family into the living room to watch cheesy television. It's decorating the house, stealing the quiet moments. It's endless batches of gingerbread dough, trying to get the recipe just right. It's the spring in the step of even the most cynical pair of shoes.

And maybe my adoration for this time of year stems from a stockpile of childhood excitement: a swirling cocktail of anticipation and nausea as I lay in bed listening intently for the quietest clink of sleigh bells, enthralled by the crumbling remains of a mince-pie and a perfectly gnawed-on carrot. Even back then I preferred Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. We'd bundle up in our coats and our gloves and wander around the block, faces lit up green, red, blue from the lights that twinkled along the rows of houses. It didn't matter that I'd have a new collection of toys in the morning - tonight we'd head home to mugs of hot chocolate and a film about Santa Clause and I'd feel a cosy kind of content that I could only ever feel at Christmas.

Each year I haul these traditions from the corners of my mind that I reserve for childhood festivities. I shake off the dust and I enjoy them just as I did five, ten, fifteen years ago, because these moments mean more to me than my name on a gift-tag ever could.

I've come to realise that it isn't the event of Christmas itself that I love, but the energy that comes with it. An entire month of this collective joy that we each carry around, tucking into gift bags and hanging from the branches of the Christmas tree. A concept that binds us together but one that is also intimate and personal and steeped with family tradition.

The thing is, people say that Christmas isn't the same when you get older. And they're right. Christmas in my twenties isn't quite the same as it was when I was seven, but I can wholeheartedly say that it is absolutely, most definitely, one thousand percent just as magical.


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