A few days ago I casually mentioned to a friend that I did, quite passionately, dislike the festive season. I hadn’t set out to shock, just throwing it in there to add a bit of context to the additional stress it’ll no doubt bring to these next few busy weeks, mostly spent preparing for an impending move overseas. But the depth of the horror displayed on her face – mouth hung open like I’d taken a swipe at the core of her very being – reminded me again that perhaps I shouldn’t let that tidbit slip so freely. The conversation stopped, I was forced to explain.
I think the annual loathing boils down to a few basic points of personal history
1. It’s somebody else’s holy day – why am I celebrating it?
My family isn’t religious. We don’t even pretend to call ourselves religious but then not practice. Religion wasn’t actively discouraged during my childhood; it just never came up. Once Santa was out of the way, and once we’d all grown to an age where we’d essentially agreed not to give each other presents anymore (mostly borne of the lack of teenage finances) then suddenly all that was left for December 25th was an opportunity to bicker. Add alcohol, bickering turns to open warfare. No thanks.
2. The pressure to get the day right far outweighs the payoff.
Every Christmas-celebrating family has it’s own traditions, rules and regulations as to how the day (or days) must proceed. We must be awake by 6am (no matter how much we drank last night). We must eat a hot roast for lunch (no matter how much we ate yesterday, or no matter how hot the Australian summer is for such a summer-inappropriate menu). We must be happy and nobody must spoil the day (no matter how many big personalities are shoved under the same roof, or their brattish children). There’s too much expectation. Some years it’s met, sure, but I find myself sitting there each year feeling imposed upon by Christmas like it’s some freaking-out Bridezilla making unrealistic demands on the wedding planner at the last minute and having a full-blown hissy fit.
3. I have major baggage about those bloody carols.
This is by far the worst offender for me. In a former career as a professional piano player, some of my fragmented income required rehearsing local choirs several nights per week. It came as no surprise to me that these groups wanted to get in early and learn a few decent choral arrangements of the popular carols in the weeks leading up to Christmas. That would be fine, but in reality it wasn’t weeks. Months. Seriously. One year, the Christmas repertoire rehearsals started – and I kid you not – on August 10th. The other choirs followed one by one, and by mid-September, I was rehearsing Christmas material on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, three hours at a time. Insanity. Then of course, the other corporate/commercial work kicked in around late November as you’d expect, filling up all the rest of the days with various other Christmas functions, parties, televised performances (live AND pre-taped), so that by Christmas Eve itself, I’d quite easily heard and played the same twenty regular carols several hundred times each. At least. (And I’m not even going to start tallying all the other times and places you hear carols – shops, television, films, door-to-door, people whistling in cars…) And that’s only one year. Next year, the same twenty songs. Over, and over. I wouldn’t mind so much if they rotated the carols the way the Chinese rotate their Year Of The animal each year. But that’s not how it works, and now, years later, no matter how many years there are between me and professional piano playing, I’m scarred.
I don’t mean to go all Bah! Humbug! on people. Mostly, I keep it to myself, except for the rare moments where I meet a kindred spirit intent on sharing. To so many people – my wife included – the day itself holds so much magic, religious or not, and I certainly don’t want to be the one to crush that in them.
But what about us: the Christmas-hating minority? What are we supposed to do? Destined to block our ears to all the rampant fa-la-la-la-la-ing, chomping down on a hot, fatty roast in 32-degrees-Celcius, and plaster on those smiles each year wishing people Merry Christmas like you’re actually feeling merry?
There’s an island that I’m sure many will want to round us all up and dump us on; so long as it’s got a pool, a bar, and somewhere to read a secular book, sign me up!