How do you feel about Christmas? Honestly?

Today, after being away for three weekends in a row, I was finally at home and taking it easy. I got up late (decadently so, in fact), had a great espresso (from Colombian beans and I really think that the Colombians are great at growing and processing coffee), attempted some gardening (and blocked the machine) and had a great cooking day. But the reason I am telling you about my day of leisure and contentment is because it allowed me finally to turn my attention to Christmas.

Christmas! I could avoid thinking about it till now only because of my ability to block things out; otherwise it has been with us since late August no less. Have you noticed how with the increased commercialisation of traditional holidays they seamlessly merge into each other? New Year’s day brings us Valentine’s cards, on the 15 of February we can buy Easter eggs and immediately after that…it is Christmas again, isn’t it! Every time this happens I really wish to be the Mistress Supreme of the Universe so I could cancel all holidays; I particularly wish to call Christmas off.

No, I am not a spoil sport. But I believe that the Eastern Orthodox Christianity has got this one right: Easter is so much more important as a religious holiday than Christmas. Christ has to be born to be able to do anything else, true; but as symbolism his crucifixion and raising from the dead are so much more significant. Apart from Christmas not being his real birthday to begin with! Celebration aside (I will never object to a good party, really) what is particularly annoying is what goes with Christmas – the presents, the pressure, the turkey than most people don’t like, the indigestible Christmas cake and the horrid songs we hear again and again. Do you know that the other day I casually mentioned to a friend that I have done no Christmas shopping yet and this almost induced a panic attack in her? Of course I would like to ban Christmas and the foolishness that affects even the smartest amongst us around this time of the year.

This is how I feel when annoyed by advertising and tired. Today, having had time to relax, I decided to examine carefully what I like and what I dislike about Christmas. I reckon this is my only chance to survive it – by looking forward to the things I like and trying to avoid the things I don’t.

Love: the Christmas tree

Our Christmas tree

I love the Christmas tree and the picture above is of ours. Yesterday John and our youngest son bought this seven foot high, completely natural tree and in the evening we had great time decorating it. This is one of my indulgencies – I do feel slightly guilty because it is probably ecologically more sound to have an artificial tree (although the natural trees are recycled at both ends) but I will miss terribly the fresh smell and the natural ones.

I love sitting on the settee, looking at the tree and meditating on the glittering little lights. Weird, I know, but brings me so much calmness and cheer!

Love: sharing good wine and food

Casa Real 2009

Please note that I said ‘good wine’ not ‘exceptional wine’. So the wine in the picture, the bottle that I bought at the Santa Rita winery in Chile, is staying put. There are other great bottles of wine to be had.

The Rolls Royce of chocolate

This year we also have the chocolates on the picture: Pierre Marcolini chocolate is not simply chocolate. You are looking at the picture of a box of sixteen pieces of exquisite taste and texture; so exquisite that eating each of them is equal measure pleasure and regret. Pleasure at the taste and regret that you can’t keep it forever!

And forget about Christmas pudding; this year I am going all Oriental and making a tray of syrup dripping baklava. Try it – it is not hard at all if you could buy high quality filo pastry.

Love: the rest and old movies on TV

Since John is probably going to read this, there is no point messing about: sometimes I do work during the Christmas break. But it is not long and I usually manage to get out of the way what I had set out to do for the day before everybody else is up. Even if I have to work a bit, the rest is very much welcome – I love going out and playing with our son, playing board games with the rest of the family, or simply snuggling into an armchair with a good book. If it is not too icy, it is a good time to run as well – even only being out in the day light wards off the winter blues.

Another thing I love about Christmas is the old movies on TV – some of them I have seen many times but they are classic.

Love: seeing family and friends

This is one of the best things about Christmas – families getting together and friends visiting from afar. Before they passed away my parents used to come and visit for Christmas; well, it was more like come a spend most of the winter with us really. Friends used to joke that I live life like in a Jane Austin novel: people come and stay for months. It was great.

This year, my sister will be visiting and we can’t wait to see her. And naturally, grown up sons will be here on Christmas day; this is when I look around the table and a deep sense of contentment spreads through me.

Hate: presents

Yes, you heard me right: I hate buying presents for Christmas and I dislike getting Christmas presents. It is not for lack of generosity – under normal circumstances I am a very generous person. Christmas, however, is not ‘normal’ – there is the compulsion to buy, and so much rubbish is being sold and bought.

If you have been given for Christmas stuff that you don’t like and don’t need, please stand up!

Ha! I thought so! I can see most of you standing up (or thinking that you should be standing up). Count me in; during my time I have been given many things I don’t like and I don’t need.

I suspect that there was time in the past when getting people small gift made sense: most people had very little. My father used to tell me that when he was a boy they used to get oranges and other exotic fruit (understand not local). Forty years ago it probably made sense to buy someone a jumper. Today, it doesn’t make sense any longer.

How am I going to get out of this one?

Hate: turkey

Hate is probably a strong word for this but I really don’t like turkey. The same goes for the other members of our family. However, this is much more easy to deal with than presents: we just never have it. After a disaster year when we experimented with duck and ended up having cheese sandwiches we firmly stick with chicken: we all like it and John’s roast with potatoes is a legend.

And while I am at it, we don’t like sprouts either; the way around this came from Runners World: a recipe that makes them edible.


This makes me feel so much better about the whole Christmas thing. It turns out that I like more things about it than I dislike but one of my dislikes is a really big, hairy one.

I shouldn’t cancel Christmas after all but see how can I get out of buying and getting presents!

How do you feel about Christmas?

22 thoughts on “How do you feel about Christmas? Honestly?”

  1. I am not big on Christmas either, although when there are little kids around to make it magical for, I like it much better. The span between my 15yo brother being too old to enjoy Christmas and my 2yo niece being amazed by everything led to a few boring Christmas in between. We usually do presents to very close members of the family and I feel uncomfortable getting something from someone else, and obligated to reciprocate. Now with no office job it is easier, and Christmas under the sun doesn’t feel too much like Christmas! I like the turkey but certainly won’t miss the sprouts!

    1. @Pauline: Yep, agree about the kiddies and magic. But our youngest son is getting a bit old for the magic (nearly 12) and there are no younger kids around. I do remember also how when he was little my son used to get overwhelmed by all the ‘stuff’ under the tree (usually from grandparents, god-parents, friends’ mums etc.) – to a degree where he could not play with anything; it was simply too much. Then I really put my foot down so that he got few things he really wanted. One regret I have is that kids today don’t have to dream about anything; the pleasure of anticipation is entirely gone.

  2. To answer your last question – have your family scatter so far that you can’t keep up with what they want or even like – then send either money or gift certificates for the great South American river.  My grandchildren love that so they can get what THEY want, not what relatives think they SHOULD want!

    Food-wise, I don’t think  Turkey features in the gospels or early Church history.    I certainly don’t think having leftovers for a week is a good idea – apart from anything else, it is not safe to keep it that long.  Alan is suggesting a really interesting fish dish this year, like paella.  Fine by me.

    The last part of your last question – how to get out of receiving presents – as a family, we only give presents to the grandchildren.  Alan and I choose (and sometimes buy) our own presents!  We don’t really need to be surprised and were both traumatized in early life  by the need to thank relatives for presents that we really, really would have preferred not to have received.

    Happy Christmas to all of you! 

    1. @Pat: John and I just finished our Christmas shopping (too all of 64 minutes and I almost had a panic attack in the shop). This year it is all very practical and our closest people are getting what we know they need. And a great Christmas lunch, of course :). No turkey – we always have nice chicken. And my sister will be here which is splendid.

  3. I really enjoy Christmas, personally.  Now, I don’t need any gifts.  Material things are not that interesting to me, this time of year as it is.  Rather, it’s the bonding with family, and good times and laughter.  Giving gifts, especially to my kids – seeing them enjoy the magic of the holidays – that’s what it’s all about to me.
    That, and no working, full nights of sleep, and other things we especially appreciate as grown ups 🙂
    By the way, I’m with you on turkey.  After years of that, I don’t feel compelled at all to have it on Christmas.

    1. @Digital Personal Finance: Enjoy your Christmas, my friend! Do you know what your children long for and dream about? This is when it is worth looking at their faces :). Merry Christmas!

  4. I think I am with you. I love spending time with family, having some good eats and playing games. I could care less about the stress that comes with presents or the pressure of knowing what to buy. It is a much nicer season to avoid this part all together. 

    1. @Miss T: I have friends who always go away for Christmas. I also remember going to Abu Dhabi for Easter one year and someone saying ‘Happy Your Easter’. Can’t run away…

  5. I was fairly blunt with my family a few years ago and told them that I wasn’t buying them anything. Instead of them buying you presents suggest that they adopt a family or give the money to charity because you don’t need it.
    I’m glad you at least recognize the purpose of Christmas (the celebration of Jesus’ birth). Here in the United States I’d suggest that over 50% of children have no idea what Christmas really is. They simply know it as a day that they get a bunch of presents.

    1. @Jason: Ha, ha! Maybe I know about Christmas because I am not a kid (though my behaviour sometimes can be really immature). But here in Europe we still maintain our links with the past; too much probably.

  6. I really like Christmas! It is the time of giving and sharing.  Time to reunite with your family and friends.  I also agree that Eastern Sunday is more important than Christmas but Christmas is truly for children.   

  7. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve pretty much gotten bored with all of the holidays. Listening to Christmas music picks me up a bit, but otherwise, well, we aren’t even decorating this year.
    Growing up, we always had ham for Christmas.

    1. @Edward: Do the decorations, Edward. This will really pick you up. As to music – if you want a real ‘pick up’ listen to some Latin American music!

  8. As always, great post Maria. Definitely Easter is a greater event (religously) than Christmas, but there is something about the comfort of a longer holiday during the christmas (or xmas+NYE) break… It’s just easier to see all of your friends and family because most of them, are not tangled up in their lives for a bit longer than just a two-day weekend. 

    I was raised by a rather open-minded family in a rather narrow-minded society and couple of years ago we just decided not to give a damn about the silly traditions (of course it’s different when kids are around). We’re making christmas special, by focusing on spending time together and enjoying the heck out of it.

    i.e. Christmas 2011 – Sushi edition! It was brilliant! Also, I made it all by myself 🙂 

    I’m really looking forward to it this year – I bought most of the presents online weeks ago (apart from some hand-made goods at the South Bank Christmas Market, but that was fun), so I don’t have to act with the crowd like Moses at the Red Sea and I can also avoid the very common disease this time of year named pyrexia xmasis (sorry – made that one up) 🙂 Btw. I loathe receiving (and of course giving) useless gifts, too. 

    All the best to both of you:) 

      1. Hi Maria, looking forward to the London meetup in March. 

        Apparently, my family enjoyed the sushi Christmas dinner so much last year, that they asked me to do it again:)  I don’t mind, as long as I’ll have someone to help this time….  

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