My friend Yvonne says she asked herself, why go through the same routine as lots of other people over the festive season, and decided enough was enough. She remembered the magic of a child’s Christmas when she was young, with a stocking and presents like new jumpers hand-knitted by kind aunties, but she couldn’t see that it was good for families to ‘beggar themselves’, as she put it, to meet rising expectations these days. Is that what it’s all about? Spending money you haven’t got to buy things you don’t need, and far more food and drink that any hungry person could consume in a month?
Forgive me if you’ve heard me say this before, but Christmas isn’t compulsory. The word ‘Christmas’ is the name the Christians gave the midwinter festival when they decided to adopt it, in about the 4th century, but it’s much older than that. However, the orgy of consumption that so many retailers seem to rely on is a very recent phenomenon, and I find an increasing number of people saying they hate the whole business. I do my best to ignore it.
Yvonne decided to reinvent Christmas. Having lots of grandchildren, she says she doesn’t have the option of ignoring the whole thing and being a ‘miserable old bat’. She’s gone back to celebrating the midwinter festival on the day it should be celebrated – the midwinter solstice, or shortest day, on 21st December. So she plans treasure hunts (indoors and out of doors), fireworks (strictly no bangs), small gifts wrapped in silver and gold paper and hung on trees in the garden, a ritual made out of lighting open fires – the Yule log is a symbol of regeneration – and all sorts of activities that the whole family can share after dark.
Me? I don’t have grandchildren, so can look forward to my usual quiet time with good food and drink, and a good book or two. My sister and I have already discovered we’ve both been thinking about giving presents to someone who really needs one, such as a mosquito net to an African child to prevent malaria, rather than giving each other something we don’t want or need.
Take no notice of anyone who calls you Scrooge if you try to ignore Christmas. If enough of us do it, it’ll go away. If you do celebrate the midwinter festival, try doing it creatively, and if you can afford to spend lots of money, perhaps there are better ways of spending it?