Every year we pretend that Christmas comes as a surprise. Announce in the office that Christmas is three weeks away (just try it and you’ll see what I mean) and you’ll elicit gasps of horror.
It’s there on the calendar – the 25th of December. And it’s been there since 1 January. So why do we do this?
For kids, Christmas means expectation, excitement, holidays and presents. For adults it means shopping, cooking, wrapping, debt and dealing with a houseful of relatives – sometimes for weeks on end.
It’s difficult to hang onto the Christmas spirit in a crammed supermarket full of screaming kids and piped Christmas carols. And with a shopping list a meter long and buckling credit card. But come Christmas Day, you’re expected to be relaxed, in control, laden with presents and filled to the brim with festive season spirit.
I think many of us are more likely to be filled to the brim with the Christmas spirits.
Christmas also comes at the end of the year when things have a way of speeding up and getting more hectic on the work front. There’s also something about these last weeks of the year that makes us want to see people we haven’t seen for months. It’s almost like a last-chance feeling. What’s wrong with doing this stuff in January or February? I don’t know, but my social programme looks like a jigsaw puzzle for the next three weeks. And I have done quite a bit of the inviting, so I am not blaming anyone else.
Christmas is also a time of reflection when the following 12 small questions have a nasty way of creeping up on you:
- Am I happy?
- Do I like my job?
- Why don’t I like my job?
- What have I achieved this year?
- Why have I achieved so little this year?
- Do I have really good friends?
- How are our family relations?
- How will I endure X, Y or Z around the Christmas dinner table?
- What are the topics best avoided around the Christmas dinner table?
- What do my finances look like?
- Is my life fulfilling?
- Why is the world in such a mess?
Right, so in between trying to solve the world’s problems (and giving up in despair), dealing with the frantic wrap-up at work, planning your Christmas (where, how, with whom) you are expected to relax and prepare for the onslaught of 2014.
It’s enough to make me stock up on red wine in advance. Or plan a silent retreat in an undisclosed location.
But we’re so brainwashed by Christmas expectations, that if I were to wake up on Christmas morning out of cellphone range and meditating under a tree somewhere in the wilderness, I am sure to have the following thought: Why am I here all on my own in the middle of nowhere without any friends or a calorie-laden Christmas lunch and tacky Christmas decorations? No one loves me, etc. And so forth. Around and around in circles.
And then we’re back to square one.
So I say bring on the whole thing – flashing Christmas lights, last-minute gifts, tacky decorations, at least one difficult Christmas guest, a low-level simmering family feud and heaps and heaps of food. You don’t want to feel left out and unloved now, do you? Merry Christmas to you too.
Susan Erasmus is a freelance writer for Health24.