This Christmas thing is complicated. The gifts, the cards, the stocking fillers, the social gatherings - that's all child's play. Individual perception is a totally different thing. Not to mention the changes in perception throughout the different stages of your life.
When I was small, as in under 10 years of age, Christmas was all about the magic of Santa Claus, his reindeer, writing letters to him and the excitement and anticipation of his arrival. Par for the course for the average Western World child.
When I was 10, tragedy struck our family. We lost my sister 4 weeks before Christmas. From then on Christmas became an emotional scam. The Christmas movies, advertisements and expectations made it seem as if my family wasn't living up to the standard of Christmas and that we were failing miserably at achieving the Christmas dream. Two years later, my parents separated and my new found hate for Christmas was alive and well. From then on it was about who had me for Christmas and who had me for New Years. And once that was sorted out, Christmas was shared with strangers who would eventually become somehow part of my family. Step this, step that, half this, half that....the future dreaded question from all new acquaintances from then on was:
- 'Do you have any brothers or sisters?'
- 'Uh, how long have you got?'
As I got older I openly stated my utter hatred for Christmas and I became quite ok with that. I would explain it away about my 'emotional scam' belief and my friends were always understanding. My expectations were so low when it came to Christmas that I was well protected from any possibility of hurt. Emotional shields up! Success!
Then I had kids. Everything changed. Christmas became magical again. I even began to love it again. Who would have ever thought? We created our traditions, and my need for making everything perfect went beyond any necessity for it to be so. Presents were bought and wrapped by November 30th, the perfect shaped tree was always found, the perfect recipe found for preparing Brussels sprouts was applied and the pressure was full-on, by no one else but me.
Over the last few years, the expectation of Christmas was so high that we were always a little let down by not watching the movie we said we would, or by coming down with strep throat or a chest infection. The only way was down instead of up. I couldn't outdo myself, no matter how hard I tried.
As I approach my 40th birthday with less than two months to go and I have celebrated my last Christmas in my thirties, I am happy to say that there was no huge expectation this year. The tree is not perfect, the lights are a little on the wild side, my youngest has an upper respiratory infection, and half the movies we said we'd watch still haven't been watched and maybe won't be at all and, it doesn't matter.
The expectation of Christmas is what your mind sets it up to be, nothing more and nothing less. Took me 39 Christmases to figure that out so take it from me and choose your expectations wisely and, if you do, you will have a great one!
Now for those New Year's resolutions....but that's a whole other blog post. Watch this space!