Christmas, that wonderful and “magical” day of the year, is almost upon us. In just a few days’ time, those of us who celebrate will – if we’re lucky – be spending the day doing whatever it is we do to do just that.
In the lead up to the day, I’ve found myself missing the Christmases of my younger years and pondering where all my excitement for the day, and where the “magic” of it, went.
Don’t get me wrong, even as a kid, and a little later as a teen, I was never really a Christmas person. At least, not in that giddy-as-soon-as-Halloween-is-over type of way. Nevertheless, Christmas was always a time of year I looked forward to, because for me it meant time off school – and therefore more time to watch Christmas TV and movies and generally slack off – the opportunity to reunite with family I hadn’t seen in at least a little while, good food, and, of course, presents.
If you replace school with work, that’s all pretty much still true, but my gladness at the prospect of it all has lessened with age. This, I think, is because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that as great as Christmas can be, it’s just one day amongst others full of everyday concerns. Additionally, I’ve come to understand that even Christmas itself isn’t all fun and games.
Everyday life continues
Christmas is seen as one of the happiest times of the year. As such, when I was younger and had few cares and little responsibility, it was easy to indulge in the spirit of the season and just enjoy myself. Then, once I realised that Christmas was close by and that the end of the school term was in sight, I’d start to anticipate all the fun I was going to have lounging around at home and looking forward to whatever it is my family would do to celebrate that year. And, I’d start to get excited about what I might be getting that year.
Now, however, as an adult who has a job and more responsibility and concerns in life than just going to school and doing my homework, my anticipation of the day as the season approaches, and then arrives, is much less fervent; somewhat drowned out by the rest of my life.
Whilst I am fortunate enough to have a job that allows me time off during the holiday – which I do very much appreciate – that time off can also be a cause for worry given that I work in a job that sometimes requires me to work to strict deadlines.
This year in particular, knowing I have two pieces of work that I have to complete in time for a deadline – one which will no doubt feel fast approaching once work begins again following the holiday – I’ve been experiencing some anxiety as my time off draws closer. Whilst I know I should be able to get everything done in the time I’ll have left once I get back, I know I’ll nevertheless worry about whether I can, until I do. Ultimately, all I can hope is that I can put it at the back of my mind whilst I’m away so that I can enjoy my break, and then work as hard as I can once I return to the office.
For now, I continue tiredly on, trying to get as much work done as possible whilst I can and struggling to maintain my work/life/sleep balance until my last day in the office – on the 24th December.
On top of my work worries, there are my personal worries, my finances being chief among these this year. This Christmas season saw me having to purchase gifts whilst not only having to consider my regular living costs, but also my weekly driving lesson payments, my recently made driving test payment, and a potential future car and all the expenses it will bring with it.
So, my everyday concerns continue to be present despite the joyous season, and that just takes some of the fun out of it.
Making it happen
Christmas is easy when you’re a kid. It’s not really something you have to plan or prepare for even as you participate in aspects of it. The decorating is fun, it is not expected of you to buy any gifts, and when the itself day arrives none of the cooking, cleaning, or other Christmas Day responsibilities fall to you.
I do not deny that I enjoy putting up Christmas decorations with my family even now. There is always some fuss and bickering – because that’s just how families can be – but nevertheless it’s time my family gets to spend bonding and actually putting something together, together. And, after it’s all done, the tree is up and covered in pretty decorations and there are bright lights to admire, which really helps me to start feeling Christmassy.
That said, as an adult, decorating can feel like a hassle, requiring me to find time in a busy schedule to help locate decorations which have been hiding somewhere for the last year and putting them up. It also means cleaning up a mess of fake pine needles after the tree has been assembled and the knowledge that we’ll have to do it all in reverse come the end of the season.
The downsides of the gift-giving portion of the season are plain enough. As a gainfully employed adult it is difficult not to feel pressure to participate in the giving part of the gift exchange, and parting with the funds needed to spend on those gifts isn’t easy. Even as someone who simply prefers to ignore financial worries by not looking at their bank balance – a luxury I can somewhat afford because I live at home – I find gifts a stressful endeavour. This year, as mentioned above, the stress is heightened by my current recurring and potential upcoming expenses.
Given those expenses, I really tried to stick to my gift budget this year. But, in trying to get just the right gift for each of my recipients, I managed to exceed it. I just couldn’t – and rarely ever can – resist the temptation of slightly exceeding my budget in order to get just the right gift a to make a loved one happy. I really worry about the future state of my finances at times like this once I take on more financial responsibility – like a car – and no longer live at home.
A more mundane downside to gifts is the need to actually go out and get them – because for some reason this is one of the areas in which I opt not to just go online shopping. This year, as always, I procrastinated until the last possible moment then went out to buy all the gifts I’d planned to buy, in one day. After several hours of venturing around my town’s shopping centre I had everything I needed, but also my feet hurt, and my back was aching. The latter was fortunately somewhat remedied after I convinced my sister to give me a brief back massage – £5 for 10 minutes.
But the preparation of Christmas Day doesn’t stop once the day itself arrives. On the day, there’s still the need for some hustle and bustle to make it all happen. For my family the day typically begins with cleaning of the house – which I sometimes participate in – to prepare for guests, or sometimes just to allow my family to come home to a clean place.
After the house has been taken care of, there’s the process of cleaning up ourselves and getting dressed before guests arrive, or before we get in the car and head off to wherever we’re going to be celebrating that year.
Once we’ve arrived there’s typically cooking that needs doing or finishing, and though I rarely get involved in this part – because it’s Christmas and not the time to make people suffer my cooking – the clean up after everyone’s eaten is something I at least sometimes do, or get involved in.
After that the party ends or continues on until all anybody wants to do is go home and sleep.
All-in-all it’s a long, busy day requiring a lot to be done – typically with at least some input from me – and it tends to be quite exhausting.
Work aside, however – and I do acknowledge that there will be even more of this for me in the future once I can host, actually cook well enough to provide at least some of the food, or pitch in more in some other way – Christmas still allows me to have a great time and some fun moments and take away some great memories. During the day I get to catch-up and have a laugh with and friends; sit together with them and enjoy a great homemade meal; and, not only receive gifts, but also get the satisfaction of making someone else happy with one I’ve given. And that’s just to mention a few highlights.
Furthermore, in recognising the work Christmas requires – both in the lead up to and on the day itself – I also come to recognise everything that others around me put into making the day enjoyable, by making their houses look and feel Christmassy; by spending their hard earned cash on presents, some of which are intended for me; by taking the time to clean their houses so that they can receive guests; by labouring over hot stoves so I, and others, can enjoy a nice meal; and, by tidying up afterwards (if I’ve managed to avoid doing so). And, this understanding helps me appreciate the day that much more.
Ultimately, Christmas is still a celebration I enjoy, even if my experience of it has changed to include some less-than-fun aspects. So all this to say, the Christmas magic hasn’t really gone, it’s just that my new “adult filter” makes it a little harder to see. But, in a way, I think that’s all the more reason to enjoy it. There aren’t many moments in life that allow people, adults especially, to really have fun and indulge in the magic of the moment. So, why not enjoy the ones that do as much as possible?