I don’t like Christmas much. There was a time when I did, when I was part (by a previous marriage) of a large extended family and we shared the cooking and baking, made decorations out of boughs of evergreen and pinecones sprayed gold, and the whole day was a whirl of children and dogs and adults all having a thoroughly good time. There were always at least one or two people who’d been invited because they didn’t have anywhere else to go, and so it was also a time for sharing and inclusion. Those felt like real Christmases – nourishing and wholesome and good.
Things change, life moves on, and it’s tempting to go off on a lament about the increasing commercialism, the loss of meaning (and I’m not referring to religious meaning here), and how tired and tiring it’s all become. But what I mostly don’t like about it is this: despite its problems, I like my normal life and I don’t want it all to grind to a halt for two weeks while this madness takes its place. The things I most like to do stop for the duration, and the places I most like to go become over-crowded with people and therefore no longer attractive. I’ve always felt that holidays of any description are only made so much of because a lot of people don’t like what they do the rest of the time. The annual two-week break is a kind of consolation prize for hating the remaining fifty weeks. If you love your normal life, you don’t mind too much if you don’t get a holiday from it.
I was reading a book called A Thousand Days in Tuscany earlier this year, and I bookmarked a page that I had in mind to quote when it came to the Christmas season. It expresses my feelings so perfectly and eloquently that I’ll quote it at length:
Prescribed holidays can seem a sham to me. I’d rather have a dose of celebrating in each day, some small recognition of the miracles contained in it. The grand spectacles put me off. They end, and when they do, one often feels whittled down rather than refreshed by them. I like my daily life enough so that I’d rather live it even on Christmas. I want to light the fire, bake my bread, run up to the Centrale for breakfast, cook a beautiful lunch and dine with Fernando and Barlozzo, read and sleep by the fire, stomp through the woods and into the tangled, frozen fields until I’m breathless and aching with the cold and with the wonder of a black, starry night. Then I’d like to wrap my hands about a cup of hot, spiced wine and sip it together with our friends and neighbours who’ll surely gather, at some point in the evening, up at the bar.
So, yes, I’d like my normal life back again please – I’d prefer to enjoy my small celebrations in each day. But in the meantime, and especially if the holidays are something that bring you joy, I wish all of you the best of Christmases (or whatever your holiday is), filled with laughter and love and good times. And I also hope that you find these in each and every other day of the year.