I hate the crass commercialisation of it, that sees people get into debt to buy their kids toys that will be ignored, forgotten, or broken within three months, to buy family members, spouses, partners as many gifts as possible, using bright paper and financial exhaustion to say what should be said with gentle laughter, in a kiss, in the holding back of hair as someone suffers from infection or over-indulgence, in the small things we see in the charity shop, at the market, on our everyday travels, that make us think of those who hold the centre of our heart, in the jobs we do even though we’d rather be doing something else, in the quiet and eternal support of ambitions and dreams, in the celebrating of achievements, however big or small, and in the silent comfort offered in the aftermath of rejection or failure.
I hate the inevitable rows over “whose festival is it, anyway?”, the anger, hatred, ridicule and intolerance hurled from all sides, at anyone whose beliefs or philosophies dare to differ from one’s own.
I hate the habit of giving money, because “I don’t know what you want” (mainly because you never asked.)
I hate the consuming of quantities of food that are not needed, just “because we can”, while more than half the world starves.
I hate the way we’re forced into extended communion with people who have ignored us, as we’ve ignored them, for the past twelve months.
I hate the way the people in whose lives we are most involved are rarely around – forced to spend the holiday with people who are not involved in their lives, or who feel obliged to spend the holiday with people whose lives they’d rather not be involved in – I hate the way friendship is trivialised, made “less important” than blood, or romantic love.
I hate the endless arguments between so-called family, and the way no one will ever have the grace to say “I think it’s best if I go home now – I’ll call you when I’ve had a chance to calm down a little.” I hate this grim determination to “be a family at Christmas”, when we’ve not been one the rest of the year, not been one when it mattered – when a member was unemployed, struggling financially, homeless, lonely, when they wanted someone to be proud of something they’d achieved, when they wanted someone to share their sorrows and fears with.
I hate the focus on “What am I getting?” from people who already have more than they need.
I hate the way children are indulged, rather than taught that you live within your means, and are grateful for small pleasures.
I hate the way simplicity, and the joy a simple meal, simple companionship, simple gifts, can bring are dismissed as “a poverty mindset”, and “not entering into the spirit of things.”
It’s not about who you celebrate – which deity, pantheon, or force – but who you care for. Do you do what you can for those whom society has forgotten? Those without homes, without family, without friends, without the money to celebrate in even a small way? Those who are ill or alone?
It’s not about what you celebrate, but why you celebrate – are you celebrating and honouring the relationships that have sustained you through another year of triumphs and disasters, are you celebrating the steady, reliable presence of the earth, nature, and their provision for you, are you celebrating love, friendship, and genuine joy – or are you just celebrating the fact that you’ve got more “stuff”, a week off work, the chance to parade your religious beliefs around, to mass approval?
No one has to do everything – there are no superheroes, no single individual, or even small group of individuals, who can “save the world” – but we can all do something.
Before we unwrap the new “stuff” others have bought us, we can donate some of our old “stuff” to charity shops, and to services that support the most vulnerable in our society.
Before we tuck in to our feast, we can donate a bag of groceries to a local food bank appeal.
Before we splash the cash on food, drink, friends, family, presents and decorations, we can make a small donation to organisations who work tirelessly, year round, to improve the human condition, and to help leave the world a little better than they found it.
Before we set out on journeys to visit distant relations, we can journey within ourselves, and identify the work we need to do in the coming twelve months to become a little better as human beings – the things we need to leave behind, the things we need to embrace, the attitudes that don’t serve us, and the talents that do.
I hate Christmas – but I love the other things we can do, celebrate, give, and focus on at this time of year.