2 more sleeps and it will finally be here. That C word.
The silly season is well and truly upon us and everywhere you go you are bombarded with sales, specials, and discounts. Slogans reminding you not to disappoint “her”, not to forget Grandma Mabel, not to forget your boss, your therapist and Whiskers the cat this year. And if you remembered everyone on your list, they want you to chequebook twice and buy a bunch of stuff just in case you fucked up the first lot of presents. It’s just not enough. It’s never enough.
At a risk of sounding like this guy
I have a confession to make.
Christmas makes me anxious.
Thats it. I said it.
Growing up in a predominantly Muslim country, Christmas at my parent’s house was about the birth of Jesus (Prophet Isa as he is known in Islam). We had a tree and special breakfast and our father would encourage us to read the Quraanic Chapter titled “Mary” around lunchtime. Asides from that we didnt really have any specific Christmas traditions. Presents and gift buying wasnt on the agenda.
Watching Cartoon Network on Christmas day, I dreamt of the Christmases I saw on Tv with presents wrapped in brightly coloured paper with huge bows on top. I wanted to visit malls bustling with happy shoppers carrying gayly coloured paper bags. I wanted the carolers at the doors and the eggnog and the Christmas lights.
I wanted television christmas, I would cry to my very patient and loving mother and she would retell the story of a baby in a manger who didnt even get a proper bed to sleep in let alone half the things I wanted on my christmas list. “Its about family” was her standard reply when my pouting gave way to tantrums and bawling.
Fast forward to 2016. 29 year old Laila had checked her list twice and bought sensible presents within her budget before November was out.
Presents from ebay, presents from opshops, presents from small businesses online, brick and mortar mom and pop shops saw me come in with my checklist and pen and leave overshadowed by a stack of parcels. I had budgeted carefully and selected wisely, stretching each dollar as far as it would go. I thought I was doing christmas “the correct way”: being early, armed with a scrupulous budget that would put our Government to shame and with kooky ideas that made each gift personal instead of perfunctory. I thought I had ACED it. Go home everyone else, I had WON Christmas.
Or had I?
Last night in the midst of a Christmas Cookie baking marathon, I suffered the worst panic attack of the year. It looked something like this…
What if people didn’t like my presents? What if they expected something bigger/better/shop bought-er than the presents I had carefully planned. I was only trying to be realistic and ethical with my presents this year but would my recipients care about the fact that their kitschy cookies and cookie jar took me an hour and a half to prep, bake, and ice before being put into a hand crafted jar? Would they care that I bought their brooch from a lovely lady in Canada who handmakes them from recycled wood?
I realised that I could budget and plan away months in advance but I could never plan how any of my gifts would be received and frankly, that made me feel helpless. I so badly wanted to do Christmas right but had no reference points apart from what I saw on TV as a kid and what I saw on social media.
And it made me feel so lost.
So on the 9th day of Christmas social media gave to me, 3 batches of pinterest cookies, 2 snapchat selfies and unrealistic expectations about my Christmas tree. I was a fucking wreck.
My house looked like it was hit with a flour bomb.
There were bills still left to pay and all i wanted to do was buy a round of back up presents from Kmart and Myer.
And I think I have yelled at Jamie and Oogy the cat enough to warrant them leaving me Home Alone for the holidays.
This is not how Christmas looks on instagram. This is not how Christmas looks in the Movies. I gave up at midnight and binge watched Season 5 of Madmen while eating the reject pile of cookies. A very mangled gingerbread person with missing limbs caused me to burst into tears. What was wrong with me?
It was at 4am that I finally found rest next to a very exhausted Jamie who had to put up with several of my tantrums throughout the day. In all the fucking craziness surrounding a “home made” Christmas, I forgot that this was our first Christmas in our own home. And i had made a mess of it.
I get it now Mom.
The presents under the tree in the movies are empty boxes all giftwrapped with a bow. The nice smiling people populating television malls are all extras with good tempraments and all the happy child actors in the 90s christmas movies….well i will let you be the judge of how they ended up.
Mom, if youre reading this, I finally get the Baby Jesus story. I finally get what our modest presentless childhood Christmases were all about. And I am grateful for that lesson.
There needs to be a shift in our Xmas mindsets and that shift isnt just about where we source our presents. In fact Its not about the presents at all even if they are home made/ ethically sourced/ small business oriented ones.
That’s right folks…
Christmas is about BEING present. All puns intended.
So get the fuck off my blog and go eat delicious christmas snacks with your fucking family!
Merry Christmas everyone.