I really like Christmas

A couple of years ago I spent Christmas in Winchester, during what turned out to be the coldest winter on record. We drove down from London in an actual blizzard (in our antipodean ignorance we thought it was rather pretty). In the backyard of the big old English house, my brother and I made a snowman as the last of the blizzard fell around us. I’d never really believed that snowmen existed as anything other than sludge piles until we made one. I spent the next week reading Beatrix Potter books and watching Top Gear repeats and eating leftover turkey. There were squirrels in the garden.
The strangest thing about spending Christmas in the UK was how familiar it all felt. It was the Christmas people have on Christmas cards and in books. The snow and the cold and the bread sauce all felt so normal, so natural. Which was odd, because it wasn’t something I’d ever experienced before.
Christmas in Australia isn’t really Christmas at all. It’s a holiday of our own invention. It certainly borrows heavily from the European tradition but at its core I think it holds a vastly different sentiment. And I don’t just mean that a lot of people eat prawns and sausages and instead of walking through snow we go swimming. Christmas is different for everyone, that’s part of its charm, but Christmas seems more relaxed on this side of the globe. It’s less formal and structured. Traditions and customs are optional rather than obligatory.
I love Christmas. I like tinsel and baubles, I even like carols. I’m enough of a fan of kitsch to appreciate the tacky bits and cradle enough sentimentality to appreciate the lame parts. I never really grew out of that childish excitement.
These days Christmas is an excuse to make the pilgrimage home. I love seeing my family. My favourite years are the ones when it’s just me, my brother and my parents. When we open presents at our own pace and make nice food and nap in the afternoon. Christmas doesn’t have to be anything special, but it’s often rather nice.
It’s an excuse to give presents to people you love. An excuse to say, “you are excellent, have this thing”. I know lots of people don’t like that part of Christmas, the materialism of it, the pressure, the waste. There’s weight in that argument I’m sure. But I love things that say “thank you for being a part of my life”, even if the handwritten note in the front of a book sometimes means more than the book itself.
Christmas, in all its incarnations, is a time to appreciate people. I think that gets lost sometimes, under layers of tinsel and trifle. I think it’s important to stop occasionally and look back, to see the people in your life and appreciate what they’ve done for you. For me that’s what Christmas is about really. It’s about saying thanks for the nice things and forgetting, just for a day or two, that the rubbish things matter. 

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year