This might surprise you, but I do not have any memories of Christmas day from my childhood. I have memories of a few events that occurred on those supposedly special days but not much of the day itself.
I know what we used to do and where we used to go but I don’t actually even remember getting up on Christmas morning. I don’t remember opening Christmas presents. I remember being excited before Christmas and full of so much expectation but sadly the days themselves were so stressful that they didn’t stick in my brain.
From what I do remember, I know that Christmas was a day of arguments, vicious ugly arguments. They were black days which usually ended a lot better than they started because on Christmas night we spent time with Mum’s family. Mum’s extended family were funny and generous. Even Dad enjoyed himself at these events and we caught up with our cousins and it was fun.
But the start of the day was usually bad. We grew up in poverty. My parents always struggled financially and emotionally. Every Christmas Mum would spend a fortune on a lot of “crap” presents; overcompensating for our difficult lives. Lots of money spent on lots of items of little or no value. Mum wanted so bad for Christmas to be special but sadly it never was.
Every year Dad would have a melt down at some stage of the day when he realised how much money had been spent on gifts; or because lunch was served at 3 pm because Mum forgot to defrost the turkey or because Mum was still wrapping a huge number of gifts for the cousins at 6 pm that night. It was always painful.
To this day, my siblings and I struggle with Christmas. We can happily celebrate Christmas any other day of the year – just not on the 25th of December. We all cringe a little when we see a lot of gifts under the Christmas tree even though we go to great lengths to buy our kids thoughtful and valuable gifts. We have created our own Christmas days now but our history still lurks in the shadows.
Christmas can be a very stressful day for a lot of people. Past history of painful Christmas experiences, loneliness, loss of a loved one, being separated from our kids, pressure to catch up with all family members on one day, pressure of spending time with family members we don’t particularly like.
We’re not our best selves when we are stressed. We may say and do things that we regret later.
So one, we should do whatever we can to reduce our stress levels at Christmas and two, we should not judge other people because of their behaviour on that day.
We need to be generous to ourselves and each other in this holiday period.