I can’t seem to get it into my head how rapidly Christmas is approaching. Even being stuck in a traffic jam on Princes Street last weekend while people merrily jumped out in front of buses just to reach the delights of the Christmas market didn’t convince me. I am only too well aware of the last-minute rush to finish the pantomime props, and I know I am going to have to eat a lot more than usual next Thursday when we go out for our work Christmas lunch. The only thing I can focus on is the idea of having 2 weeks and one day off work, starting on the 20th of December. Everything else seems irrelevant.
I have never been a great fan of Christmas. I don’t like the pressure involved in giving people presents or in receiving them, or the pressure on adults generally to make Christmas Day special. I think this dates back into my childhood, when a couple without children who were allegedly friends of my parents used to come and visit us every Christmas Day. I say ‘allegedly’ because it gradually became clear over the years that my parents couldn’t stand them and that the feeling was probably mutual. My father felt some sort of bizarre sense of obligation towards them because he and the male half of the couple had been at school together, and my father had clearly been the cleverer of the two by some way, an academic high-flier, and had also managed to produce two children. Looking back on it, I can’t imagine why they continued to visit year after year. These days people in my own family are the only difficult ones I could possibly put up with to that extent.
Usually the day went spectacularly badly, with one of us throwing a tantrum – either my brother, I or my mother, or sometimes all three – and the dog biting someone. It was a relief to get to Boxing Day and to be able to slouch around reading for hours at a time.
I have done little or no Christmas shopping this year, and although I’ve started to draft a Christmas letter and bought a few cards, I haven’t had the energy or enthusiasm to do anything with them. I remember writing cards being a terrible struggle last year, and that’s putting me off even starting on them. I think I can partly blame Facebook for this. I seem to keep in touch with the people I want to – and some I don’t – all the year round instead of just in December. But partly, as an irreligious person, I have begun to resent celebrating Christmas as such, although I can see the need for a mid-winter festival to cheer us all up a bit.
On that note, here is my (black) tree.