Christmas – Doing it my way
I have very complicated feelings about Christmas. On the one hand, the month of December is a very triggering time for me. You can see the focus on happy family time and feel the pressure of pretending that everything is fine and jolly. For someone who has been through childhood abuse in the family home, that is just a whole minefield of pushed down feelings that might explode at any moment. On the other hand, I have this nostalgic longing after the few good Christmas times that I remember from my childhood: baking cookies with my grandma, the smell of Christmas food, the excitement before opening presents, singing Christmas songs with the whole family.
A Ghost of Christmas Past
But I can’t just pick on side of it all. I could try to focus on the wonderful memories and to try to recreate them. But I would be lying to myself. Our Christmas times when I was still living in Germany were often events where everyone was very tense. We were waiting for my father to have another outburst of anger. As children, we were afraid to be children. We tried our hardest to not indulge in overeating, to be calm and grateful when it came to the gifts we got. Like, when you open a gift as a kid, you should be focusing on what you got and be all excited, right? But for us, it was more like trying to have the right sort of reaction and then observe our father’s reaction to our own. It was just a very tense affair.
And the older I got, the less inclined I was to look forward to family Christmas. It became more a huge moment of anxiety, something to get through, something to endure. The older I got, the less time I spent with my family on Christmas: eventually it stayed with them one night only, Christmas Eve.
My Own Traditions
Instead, I found the things that I enjoy about Christmas and that have absolutely nothing to do with family. Going to a Christmas market, for instance. I continued that tradition in Sweden too, and have now also found a fantastic German Christmas market here in Canada. I love drinking hot mulled wine, looking at the things the different vendors are selling, the smells of burnt almonds, of Bratwurst.
Another thing I really love is the creative part of it all. I love decorating things, I love sending beautiful cards, I love creating something that is aesthetically pleasing. So every year, I decorate my home a bit. And I send out dozens of Christmas cards.
And then there is the food! Oh, the wonderful Christmas food! Unfortunately that has become a bit more complicated now that I have Diabetes. But this year, I have put some real effort into creating a Christmas meal that meets my expectations of Christmas food, but that doesn’t spike my blood sugar too much. I looked up recipes and bought ingredients and created a fantastic meal that I am really proud of!
As you can see, I am not really into the three things that most people care about during this time of the year: Jesus, family and gift giving. I am an atheist and I haven’t been in a church on Christmas in like 20 years.
When I was a young child. I was in the church Christmas play as Marie and I was in the church choir and sang all the Christmas songs. I played the flute in church to accompany the congregations singing. There are fond memories of those times, mostly because it was about a feeling of holiday, of something special. Everyone looked their best, everyone seemed happy. But now I am quite opposed to things that have religious undertones and I don’t buy into the whole “pretend” idea anymore: I now know that most people in church on Christmas are not happy at all. Most families are dysfunctional in one way or another.
I am not close to my family and I don’t have children. And I am really not someone who buys into commercialism. Instead, I love the creative parts of the whole event, and holding on to the nostalgia that is linked to the few beautiful moments I remember from my Christmas past. I also know that I am lucky. I cut my family out of my life, I am not alone during the holidays and I don’t feel the pressure to be able to buy expensive gifts. There are a lot of people out there who are alone during this time of the year, or who need to be around toxic family, or who feel guilty for not being able to buy gifts for their kids. Christmas is a terrible time for a lot of people, and especially a lot of children.
Having lived in three countries, and being married to a Jew, Christmas is really just a weird of fusion of traditions for me. But I make it work, and I know how to avoid most triggers related to this time of the year. Do I love Christmas? No. I will always have the terrible childhood memories from it. But I think I have started to be able to make it my own now, and do it in a way that it takes away pressure and instead focuses on thing that I love.