Why I am so Happy I Gave Up Christmas
Updated: May 4
I had a very typical childhood. My Christmases were very similar to most people. You have the obligatory Santa's stocking and the bigger parcels from your parents. Granny and grandpa, aunts and uncles gave you pants and socks and other uninspired gifts, and don't get me wrong, I'm sure I was very grateful, but even from an early age, I didn't feel any magic.
In my first year as a parent, my husband walked out on our eight-week-old son and me, deciding he didn't want to be a father anymore, which kind of put a dampener on that year. By the time my second child was born, I was once more happily married, and I guess for a couple of years, Christmas was okay. I never really got the flurry of rushing out and buying gifts, and as an adult with two salaries coming in, I could pretty much buy whatever I wanted for myself, so it felt weird asking other people for stuff. I also hate surprises, like seriously. I hate them, like don't surprise me because I behave incredibly badly. I have atrocious manners, and I can't stand not knowing.
So, this meant that friends and family who didn't know me used to check in with me first and make sure that my presents were going to be okay, which kind of defeats the object, right? When my children were old enough to understand Christmas, they were diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum. They showed very little pleasure in anything. A stranger may have called them ungrateful, but it's just the way they are. They also were not super struck by the idea of a strange man breaking into the house at midnight to bring gifts; I get that.
All too soon, they were far too old even to care, and we went through the mercenary stage of what can I ask for and get the most of this year. I found this quite depressing as, again, I've always been relatively financially stable, and my children haven't wanted for anything. I refuse to participate in the outdoing parents at Christmas challenge; we had a very strict £30 main gift limit and then stockings of various bits and pieces. They didn't need anything else. When they moved on even further, it became increasingly tedious to deal with Christmas. I didn't enjoy how my in-laws did Christmas at all; I felt trapped and stressed pretty much for three days 24 seven. When I got divorced, I decided to ditch Christmas.
I mean, after all, I don't believe in any religion, so the Christmas story means nothing to me. It's a fairy-tale, in my opinion. I'm also not a commercial type of person, and I object to the bright flashing lights and the must-have mania that sweeps through people at Christmas, Valentine's Day, birthdays, any day that the shops think they can get away with making you spend your money on things you don't really need. So, I decided to quit Christmas, and I've not looked back.
I literally do nothing, I don't decorate the house, I don't buy presents (maybe for a select couple of people I know would buy me something and might be pretty offended if I didn't buy them something), but my kids have the same opinion as me. They live at home, and they're not interested. So, time off work is more valuable, and I get to relax for a couple of days when all my clients are busy enjoying the festivities.
When I read Facebook in the weeks running up to Christmas, I feel nothing but relief, the stress levels among people are crazy; there is talk of budgets, overspending, anxiety, and more. My children being with me on Christmas Day (because they live here, if they didn't, it wouldn't bother me if I didn't see them that day) is everything I need, and other than that is just a day. We will cook a meal. After all, we do that every day; we may have a roast because hey, the rest of the world is celebrating Christmas, we may not. We may not get dressed that day; we may sit around in our pyjamas; I'll probably watch Netflix, have a bottle of wine, take my dogs for a walk, and enjoy myself.
It scares me how stressed people get and how much Covid has highlighted the fact that we depend badly on these crazy consumer lead days. I'm quite sure that many people who are in such a state about Christmas and not being together are not Christians. They are not people who believe that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, pretty much like me. And yet, the anxiety and stress they are feeling because things are different this year terrifies me. I love my friends and family, and I see them whenever I feel the need. It's not about one day, it's about 365 days. It doesn't matter to me if I'm shut in my house on my own for Christmas because I still know I have a family that loves me, children that love me and I am very much wanted in this world.
I don't know if writing this will make anybody realise that actually, it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter; one day dictated by commercialism or religion doesn't matter. What matters is the love you have for each other every day; what matters is picking up the phone and telling your family how much they mean to you any day doesn't matter what day it is. So as everyone around me goes into a Christmas frenzy and starts shouting about what they haven't got and what they need and where they need to shop and what they need to get and where they need to buy...wow, it's exhausting. I will be sitting here quietly enjoying my own company, my children when they deign to come out of their rooms, and my animals with no tree, no decorations and no fuss. Because really to me, it's just another day.