Some people adore Christmas; some absolutely loathe it. Personally, my feelings on the topic are mixed.

I love tinsel, carols, and the chance to share yummy food with people I love. There is nothing wrong with the holidays, per se. And yet

Christmastime is also laden with emotion. This is partly due to the strongly held expectation in our society that at this time of year we should all be part of a perfect nuclear family, with stories of success and achievement to share with a large group of loved ones over an enormous meal while exchanging ridiculously expensive, elaborately wrapped gifts.

This expectation does more damage than good. The inevitable consequence of ridiculous, unattainable expectations, is our inability to live up to them – which leaves us feeling like a failure for being single, between jobs, divorced, unhappy, in debt, or simply not being completely perfect (weird fact: no one is).

We force ourselves to chase an impossible goal. Which leaves us feeling guilt, shame, expectation and disappointment. Happy Holidays? Not so much.

Some have negative childhood memories of Christmas which come back to haunt, like a Dickensian ghoul. Some of us become so caught up in Christmas needing to ‘look’ a particular way, that we don’t do what we really want. We fail to acknowledge how exhausted we are. We ignore the fact that we have no desire AT ALL to cook an enormous meal or buy six thousand presents.

For most of my adult life, I’ve celebrated Christmas in a country where Christmas is historically not the most important holiday (that honor goes to Sinterklaas). The advantages of this include:

(1) Sinterklaas is celebrated on 5 December which generally means no one really busts out the Christmas decorations until the sixth, leaving a window of just 19 days for Christmas mayhem, rather than the four-month extravaganza witnessed in other places I’ve lived.

(2) People don’t go quite as nuts with expenditure. There is no massive debt to be paid off in the new year, and we don’t place as much pressure on the event. My in-laws would always offer the option to share a meal somewhere in January instead of obligatorily showing up on the 25th. My adopted family capped the amount to be spent on presents.

These days, I try to see Christmas not as some be-all and end-all, but an opportunity to connect with whoever is around me. Whether that’s a couple of mates I’ve just met, or the closest of family members. Maybe we dress up and eat turkey, maybe we go surfing and eat fast food.

It’s not about what it looks like, but how it feels. Which on second thoughts doesn’t go just for Christmas, it goes for every single day.

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