Are we celebrating Christmas, or hiding from it?

Everyone huddling up with their families. Escaping any lurking existential notions of the fundamental loneliness of the individual life.

I have to deliver some Christmas cheer for the kids, myself. My mum is coming over, so we will hide from the Spirit of Christmas together. Lunch on Christmas eve with a bunch of friends, other existential lurkers.

My mum was an orphan, and used to be parceled out for Christmas, and given dolls by the extended family – lovely dolls with moving eyes to the poor little orphan girl who lived with her grandmother. Dolls that she then merrily dissected, putting the heads in one pile, the eyes in another, and so forth. Somehow, that remains one of my enduring images of Christmas. If I think of an artwork celebrating Christmas, it would be just that – piles of neatly sorted, dismembered dolls’ parts.

My dad grew up with a divorcee mother from the age of four, which places us in the late 1940s and early 50s. She was too proud to go back and celebrate with her hyper-religious family back on the island of Åland, since they told her he was a bastard child after the divorce. I am sure she did her utmost to provide Christmas cheer to the best of her ability, but I doubt my father appreciates that to any significant degree. He goes and gets the Christmas tree, but otherwise leaves any family get-together plans to his wife.

I did enjoy Christmas when I grew up, and when I was married – my then husband has a lovely family, who were genuinely warm and welcoming and really did unite in Christmas cheer.

My own family is somewhat more monolithic, a bit like Easter Island. Lonely stone figures with bits missing, staring out at the sea.

Perhaps it is not so strange that this time of year feels dark. I like the light turning around the 22nd. Over a few days, you can feel the pressure of darkness lighten. This coincides with the fading of Christmas build-up, and the relief of things soon returning to normal.

God forbid this is read like support for Babyface Cameron’s latest missive on the importance of marriage. Shit happens, and there is no call for making the normative pressure any greater. We are all just trying to get by, and get along. And doing OK with that. Christmas just rubs any deviation from the great illusion of The Norm in your face, and seems designed to highlight the in/out aspect of it.

I wouldn’t call myself a proper Christmas refusenik, but I am building up to it. Once the kids have grown up, I think I will choose more unusual ways of celebrating/escaping it. I do not have a black belt in family celebrations, but I am good at enjoying life in more free-form ways.

In brief, I look forward to life beyond the holiday period.

Bah, humbug.


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