I’m not sure if it’s because, now, at nearly 23, I’m finally transitioning into what feels like real adulthood (not the fake version we think is adulthood when we turn 18), or if the notion of Christmas in the UK has gotten even bigger over the past few years, but recently I’ve noticed a shift in my attitude towards the festive season.
I realised this at work the other day, when someone put Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ on over the speakers and, after nearly a lifetime of believing it was the greatest Christmas song of all time, I rolled my eyes and shoved my earphones in aggressively to listen to something else.
I’ve concluded that it’s probably both; the realities of Christmas as an adult combined with the fact that, every year, Christmas returns with a vengeance. We have more adverts, more songs, more buzz and more gimmicks and as a result of it all, more pressure.
The concept of Christmas stress isn’t completely new to me. I recall experiencing it in the past, when I was in year three and spent hours perfectly writing out Christmas cards for my classmates, praying that by the time they got them they’d be able to smell the scent on the gel pens I’d used. It happened again when I was 13 – finally old enough to start buying gifts for my friends with my saved pocket money – standing in Boots painfully stuck between getting the Charlie Red spray set versus Charlie Black.
Having survived the Boots dilemma of ’01, the pressure of Christmas has intensified and I find myself weighed down by the festivities. I’m frustrated that, even after graduating and securing a full-time job, I still can’t afford to treat my parents to the presents they deserve after years of making Christmas such a magical day for me and my sister. There’s pressure to have the wittiest, quirkiest Christmas jumper to wear into the office; and pressure to make sure I squeeze in plans with friends I don’t get to see often anymore, in that tiny gap between Christmas and New Year’s before we get back to our new and separate lives. And, generally, there’s just pressure to be happy, jolly and full of glee because well… it’s Christmas.
The thing is, I actually like Christmas. I like the familiarity of it: hanging baubles and decorations that are nearly as old as me; the smell of the Christmas ham wafting through the house as it does only on that one day every single year; and filling the house with family members.
I’m determined not to let those Christmas memories disappear with my adolescence so, this year, I refuse to let my festive fondness be stifled by endless TV adverts and Valencia-filtered social posts. I have to admit, even my own attempts to make each Christmas better than the last have hindered me, but it’s key to remember that Christmas isn’t a competition.
For some people, it’s a great religious day of celebration, or time to spend with family and friends but for others, it’s simply just 25 December and will be spent without the pomp and splendour we’re constantly told is required. However you look at it, there’s no right way to do Christmas, so it’s not worth stretching yourself financially or emotionally in order to create something ‘perfect’.