A couple of things made me want to write this to you today: First up, an article on the radio news over the weekend. A economist predicted that families in Australia will stop buying presents this week, and start buying food instead ready for the festival.
No sh!t Sherlock.
As the big day is on Friday, it is likely that your groceries will be fresh if you buy them from now on in. It’s going to be crazy at the shops, be careful out there.
Secondly, Woman’s Hour were talking about the additional emotional labour that is undertaken at this time of year, on top of the normal load. Not just getting the cards out, the presents (and food) in, but making sure people in the family who aren’t well are either visited, or cared for. People working in the caring professions, making sure for every home-visit, that they show up with a smile on their face, not taking out the traffic delays and frustration on who they’re helping and servicing.
Christmas can appear to just happen in some houses, thanks to predominantly to the women in the household. My gran would make Turkish delight, mince pies, Christmas puddings, cakes, boil a ham, the list was endless. Both grandmothers would also write cards and letters, starting in October / November to make sure they all got done. It’s not that my grandad didn’t do anything, I just don’t remember him ever setting a dish on to the table, and like most people I remember occasions through food.
We’re somewhat more egalitarian in our house, Hubs met Peanut and I at the Christmas tree farm, drove the tree home, stood it up in the pot and made sure it was straight, then Peanut and I decorated it. Hubs also ordered the ham, that I will collect tomorrow. I’ve brought the presents, but only because he’s been interstate, but it’s normally something we do each year together. Grocery shopping fills him with horror at the best of times, so it’s just easier if I ask him what he wants and go out and get it.
One of Jenni Murray’s guests was saying ‘It isn’t worth the argument that would be caused if the woman said “No, I’m not doing this, you write your own cards”.’ How did feminism and emancipation get us to the point where it is easier to work yourself into the ground for a day’s celebration, rather than have an argument?
I don’t do Christmas on a grand scale, while Hubs is now not looking like he will need to head to Sydney this week after all \o/ we’ve not changed our (non) plans for the day itself. We’re conscious we need to spend time together, so off for a picnic we will go, just the three of us. However, as it is going to be 36c, we might have to change our planned destination (Hanging Rock) to somewhere more shaded. But I know that all over the country, people will be slaving away in their boiling hot kitchens to put a roast dinner on the table.
I’m from the UK, I love a roast dinner as much as the next person, but why would you do that to yourself? I am also all for tradition, but not at the expense of sanity. Mum and Dad decided early on when my brother and I were little to forgo the roast dinner, figuring we could have that any time. As a family, we much preferred the cold meat, cheeses, pickles, etc. so we cook roast beef, turkey and get a ham joint in (all bases are covered) but they’re cooked before the actual day, so that became our tradition.
Hubs doesn’t eat mince pies or Christmas cake, so me making a huge fruit cake (that I can’t eat) to sit on the table is a waste of time. I have a little Christmas pudding and mince pie bites (G/F versions) that I can tuck into. Next year I will make a cake (early, so I can feed it brandy), Peanut can decorate it, then it can sit in the middle of the table at another family celebration.
Anyhoo, what I’m waffling on about is: Do what is right for you. In your family, in your life. This year, I’ve pushed back on doing Christmas cards. I don’t have the time, but I may do next year, but for now it was a layer of ‘doing’ that I simply wasn’t capable of, (as an aside – I heard a glorious confession last week; for years two children have been writing round-robin year review newsletters, making an entire family and history up. The newsletters kept on coming, following their parents around house moves. The parents had absolutely no idea who these people were. Brilliant).
From our house to yours, wherever you are, I hope the next few weeks are kind to you. Surround yourself with people you love and people who love you. While you can’t chose your family, you do chose your friends, the people who see you all year round; people who don’t hold familial grudges against you. If this Christmas isn’t great for you, for whatever reason, have a think about what you can do make it so next year.
Why am I so keen on this? Around my lowest point in October, Hubs asked me what I wanted to achieve by Christmas. I didn’t, couldn’t, answer him, as my poor brain was saying ‘I just want to be here at Christmas’. Guess what? Christmas is on Friday, I’ve made it.