So That Was Christmas – And What Have We Done?

I woke this morning to the delicate (?) sound of a cat being sick and reflected that the Festive Season is over and I’m back in “normal life” mode. And that made me think back over the last month and wonder how different Christmas had been from usual, daily routine.

It’s something I’ve been noticing for a long time. Yes, I know Christmas is all about children and we don’t have any, but there used to be far more that was special about this time of year than there is now. We complain that the shops are force-feeding us Christmas purchases from August onwards. People have festive lights draped over their houses for months before The Big Day. The media keep reminding us how many shopping days we have left and comparing reported takings with the same day last year. And then there’s the mad scramble to take it all down again to make room for Valentine cards and Easter eggs (!) as soon as Boxing Day is over.

I remember when there were too many parties to fit them all into December. But this year there were hardly any. A group of us work-at-home writers had an online party, which was great fun. Our version of the office party, with guilt-free snacks, hangoverless drinks and an infinite number of stationery cupboards with virtual beefcake we could drag in there (I assume other people had other tastes, but most of the writers attending were women and the pictures posted were of tasty guys with no shirts on.) And we met up with people down the pub a couple of times, but that was all. Just like any other month, where I get invited to a book launch and meet with friends and my writing group. And maybe go to listen to a band or just pop into the pub for a quiet drink.

So, is it just my perception?

I don’t think it is.

I looked at things I could measure, to be more objective:

• I did some housekeeping on our Freeview hard-disk recorder a month ago, to make room for all those Christmas Specials and great films we’d want to record. So I checked the disk again today. There’s almost as much free space as there was when I deleted the stuff we’d recorded and never bothered to watch. What little we’ve added are some radio dramas, for when I’m doing chores at home. Admittedly, we’ve been watching stuff a few days after recording, but only when there was nothing we wanted to see live! So what was worth watching this year? I flicked back through the double-issue Radio Times and realised the only outstanding programmes were documentaries.

• So I stood on the bathroom scales and realised I hadn’t put any weight on over Christmas. A good thing, true – but what happened to the season of excess and overeating?

• Maybe it’s all because of the weather – we haven’t seen any “proper” winter cold this year. It’s just been grey, wet and miserable. No snow, not even a decent frost. Global warming isn’t helping to keep our Yuletide special!
Surely Christmas is the season of giving? Of receiving?
Well, not any more. There wasn’t much under our tree, to be honest. And while we’re being honest – we tend to buy things we want when we see them / can afford them / they’re on special offer at whatever time of year. So the few extra pressies at Christmas aren’t that big a deal.

Am I getting old and boring?

Good question. I don’t think I am – but feel free to disagree.

Maybe it’s all this austerity and economic crisis?

Possible, but I’m fairly sure things have been getting worse for longer than that. I remember thinking there were gaps in my December calendar in the last few years I was working in the office – so pre-2004. At a time when people seemed to have money to waste on frivolous things and certainly weren’t scrimping over Christmas. Yet I remember a bunch of the girls in the next office standing around the coffee machine complaining they hadn’t been invited to anything.

Nothing is Special.

My suspicion is that we’re spreading our celebrating more evenly over the year. Rather than having one big blow-out celebration at Christmas, we have frequent smaller ones. We drip-feed ourselves the “special” stuff all year so there’s nothing unusual about the so-called Festive Period. Just a lot of hype, obligations and profiteering. Very few people associate Christmas with anything religious, it’s no longer a big family festival and even the commercial aspects seem to be spread over the other eleven months.

We now have the Twelve Months of Christmas. We’re trying to make it Christmas every day and it’s turning out to be a lot less fun than we expected.