I hate Xmas. I am always thrilled when it is over. At least, I think I am. Maybe I am just being contrary. It has been known. I don’t understand why people like the songs that are playing in the shops. I can’t fathom why Father Xmas persists in wandering around in an itchy red outfit in the middle of the Australian summer. I hate fruit mince pies, ham, and candy canes. They all taste like soap to me. My inability to enjoy it makes me feel cast adrift in a sea of forced jolliness. If I was a floatable device I’d be shaped like the Grinch.
My mother loved Xmas. She’d start planning in October. We would have long phone conversations about what we might eat and drink on the day. Who we might visit. What we might wear. What time we might be allowed to start drinking the Baileys. Well into my 40’s I trekked from my interstate home on the annual Xmas pilgrimage and more than went along with it. I walked with her through streets lit up with light displays. I ate the ham, even though I was vegetarian. I drank the Baileys. I might be contrary but I knew better than to stand between a Scottish mother and her idea of Xmas.
I’ve tried to work out why I hate it. The best I can do is to say I find all the expectations – not to mention family time – hugely stressful.
When my mother died, friends invited me along to their Xmas celebrations. I went wherever I was invited. This sometimes meant I went along to several Xmas lunches or dinners The irony wasn’t lost on me. Xmas on steroids. The opposite of what I had been trying to achieve. Sometimes, when I could get past feeling like a complete loser for having been so churlish and somehow finding myself on the end of such kindness, I even had a good time. I saw strange and wonderful things. For example, a family who actually got along.
Since coming back to my home state, my experience of Xmas has been quite different. The fact that I don’t see my family on Xmas day is both a reward and a punishment for all the years of bemoaning how much I hate it. I never expected them to take me seriously. Even when I went overseas to avoid Xmas. And I never really took my own complaints seriously. At some level, I knew was just being contrary.
But the current guard believed me and they left me out. I think I’m glad. As it turns out, I actually do hate Xmas. But love and friendship are different things entirely. I’d turn up for those in spades. Even it does mean celebrating Xmas.