‘Horrible Mam’, ‘joyless’, ‘terrible parent’
All these things have actually been said to me. By relative strangers. Why? Do I feed my daughter gruel? (Ha! As if she’d eat that anyway!) Do I keep her in a cold damp basement? I don’t even make her stick to a bedtime for goodness’ sake! No, my crime is that I do not enjoy Christmas and I won’t be ‘doing Santa’. Terrible parent? Really?
There are so many reasons behind my dislike of the year. I am staunchly atheist so why should I lay claim to the Christian faith’s second biggest holiday? I have as much reason to celebrate Christmas as I do Kwanzaa or Eid. I was brought up in a house where my parents didn’t much care for the time of year either and where my mum was working for the NHS. I was quite young when I realised that people don’t stop dying just because you’ve put some baubles on a tree. As a tinkerer with the idea of Socialism I it doesn’t sit well with me that consumerism has whipped the holiday into a frenzy meaning that each year the music, the trinkets, the money spent gets earlier and earlier. Harrod’s opens its Christmas shop in August.
The fact is though, I shouldn’t really have to explain myself. I don’t like it, it doesn’t affect anyone else because it isn’t acceptable to not celebrate all together. So each year hundreds of miles are travelled to see friends and family, hundreds of unnecessary calories are consumed, and hundreds of hours of terrible music are piped directly into my lugs, and hundreds of pounds are spent to make sure presents (ever year I broach the idea of a present-free year and it’s met with the same horrified glares as if I’ve just announced I would like to invite them all to a ritual beheading of a baby goat).
And my issue with the fat man? We didn’t have a chimney in our childhood home so the magic was dampened slightly by the worry that St Nick was breaking and entering into my house. If he could who else might? I also don’t like the threat from people I don’t know looming over my child and saying ‘have you been good for Mammy this year? Santa won’t come if you haven’t been.’ Well hold up, I don’t want a child who only does good things for rewards. If I did choose to use Santa to coerce good behaviour that is up to me (and I suppose her dad!) but definitely not the woman I sometimes see in the queue at the corner shop or some bloke on the Metro. My main issue with Santa though is that in our household, like in many around the world, it is me who sorts out the Christmas presents, cards, food, festive activities and whatever other gubbins this season of joy entails. I spend time and effort making sure all of my friends and family get gifts they will enjoy. I don’t understand why in post-Brexit Britain where fear of migrant workers is disturbingly prevalent it is still okay for some Finnish dude to take all the credit for millions of women’s hard work. NO! Just to be clear I don’t care he’s European, I care that he is a credit-hog. Also, how can it possibly be a bad thing that my daughter will grow up knowing that once a year her friends and family have thought about her and want to treat her rather than an obese man in an ill-fitting belt?
Unfortunately for me, Christmas is unavoidable. It becomes even more so if you decide to bring new lives into the world. My daughter is only two so has no idea but she likes shiny baubles and looking at trees. My partner and I have a system. We alternate years. Though for a Christmas-hater this still isn’t fair as my years are still rife with compromise. So on his year if he wants a tree he gets a tree, on my year if I don’t want a tree we get a small one. (Have you ever seen Christmas decorations put up by someone who hates them? It does not look good!) On his year if he wants to do a roast we do a roast, on my year if I want a veggie feast we do a roast. Get the idea? None of this endears me to the holiday any more I have to say.
How did my mum and dad do it with my sister and I? We ate nice food but it might have been homemade pasties, salmon or takeaway curry. We had a tree because my sister wanted one. They haven’t had one in years though, mum sometimes drapes a bit of ivy round the place. Looks very pagan, I like it. We maybe went for a walk or, as we got older, were allowed to nurse hangovers. We did presents, both normal and a Lane special ‘carboot Xmas’, presents sourced at the local carboot sale and wrapped in newspaper. Dad was once given a tarpaulin that could cover the whole house! We didn’t do Santa though. I think maybe my sister liked the ritual of leaving out a dram of whiskey (something my dad encouraged!) and a carrot but she definitely knew they were not for a magical man in the sky. These are happy memories – untarnished by the recall of being told Santa wasn’t real – but they are memories that could have happened any time of year.
And that’s what I want to create with my little girl. The sense that Christmas is not that special. All year round her family love her and want to spend time with her, that even in the height of June we will make time to get together, share nice food and have a fun day out. So my Christmas day this year will be spent enjoying time with my little girl and her dad eating a picnic at Edinburgh Zoo. Yes it’s open. Yes it will be incredible. No there won’t be a turkey in sight.