Less pomp: At last a Christmas I can get behind - GulfToday

Less pomp: At last a Christmas I can get behind

Christmas cheer

Christmas brings a mixed bag of feelings for people who celebrate the occasion.

Kiran Sidhu, The Independent

Anyone who knows me knows I have a problem with Christmas. My mother died on Christmas Eve from cancer almost six years ago. The jingly-jangly bells of the season’s cheer bring me nothing but anxiety. The run-up to Christmas is the countdown to her premature death. However, this year, when the festivities are more of a sombre affair, I finally feel at ease with the season.  

In Christmas past, there’s always been one narrative: we’re all happy and cheerful. But that’s only half the story. For many, it’s a time when people think about family members that are missing because of death or estrangement. It’s a time when loss is felt most profoundly. Not all of us are buoyant and gay. Our stories are told, but feel distant to many. But this year, the story of loss will belong to all of us.

We have lost much this year. The traditional Christmas retail, hospitality and entertainment industries, normally heaving, have been decimated. People have lost jobs and their loved ones to the pandemic. Things that once defined us — working in the office; the friends and family we always see — don’t feature in our lives anymore. These things, like human scaffolding, hold us together.

Like some insidious social experiment, the pandemic looks us straight in the eye and asks us, who we are now? We have delved deep into ourselves to answer the question. We baked. We ran. We learnt new things in a bid to reinvent ourselves.  As much as the economy needs us to spend, spend, spend this Christmas, we have changed. A hug is now a rarity and subsequently means more than the latest face cream that promises to banish our wrinkles. The currency of human connection has gone up. And change we must. If we do not allow ourselves to reflect and evolve from an experience, it becomes something that just happened to us — minus the valuable lessons and insight an experience can give us.

I have been trying to redefine my place at Christmas for the last six years; I never quite know how I will feel or what it is exactly I want to do. All I know is that the exuberance of Christmas, with its nod to excess and consumerism, does not reflect how I feel. So this Christmas, where we’re all feeling a little lost and a little anxious, is one where I have already got my feet well under the table. I’ve got this!

A friend of mine, who doesn’t have a good relationship with her siblings, said this year she has chosen not to see them and is spending her Christmas with a friend. She said a Christmas during a pandemic has made her feel “less of a freak”. It’s allowed her to break rules. Paradoxically, the restrictions have given us freedom from societal expectations of how we should spend the big day. It’s all a bit skew-whiff, a bit “whatever”. Another friend is spending Christmas on her own. And both these friends are feeling less judged for the way they want to spend Christmas because of the pandemic. There’s a quiet freedom to this Christmas if we allow ourselves to hear it.  Although I will miss seeing my family this year, I cannot pretend that I didn’t breathe a sigh of relief. I feel that I’m not forced to engage in the frivolity of Christmas. I can finally just be. This Christmas will, for once, encapsulate me: quiet, reflective and poignant. This will be a Christmas we all feel collectively. But let’s not see it as “bah humbug”! It’s a Christmas with less pomp, fanfare and gluttony. This festive period, like the year itself, is a stripped down version of previous years. But believe me when I say it will certainly be more meaningful. 

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