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Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Angst



Christmas is coming and it should be fun right? One thing I am looking forward to is the visit from my lovely niece who is coming out for two whole weeks. We always have so much fun.

Otherwise, Christmas fills me with a kind of angst. Its all the expectations I think. Cards to write. Shopping for gifts when the shops are full of manic shoppers on buying sprees. Getting everything posted in time. The food, the drinks, events to organise to make sure everyone has fun. – and knowing its impossible to make everyone have fun.

Childhood Christmas’s are now viewed through a rosy lens, soft focus. The excitement; the countdown, carols by candlelight, long winter evenings with log fires; walks on frozen mud lanes beneath stark winter trees. Glowing noses and cheeks.
My father’s birthday was christmas eve and was always a separate celebration – birthday cake, separate presents ; Family dinner at a nice restaurant, then the Watch Night service at the local church. Trying to sleep but waking up oh so early. Never early enough to beat my sister downstairs though. Stockings at the end of the bed packed with goodies, and always a Satsuma (naartjie) at the toe.

Fast forward through the years and many bright and sparkling African Christmases with friends and families. Sunlight bouncing in shards off tinsel and shiny decorations; plenty of booze and feasty food; swimming pools and gigantic tropical downpours. So it should be something to look forward to right? So why this nameless dread?

The last christmas I shared with my father was his 80th birthday in Wales. We stayed in some farm cottages. The owners warned us that the man in the next cottage was hiding from Christmas so we must not greet him, or invite him round. He just wanted to be alone with his books until it was over. How many people feel like this? Is Thanksgiving the same?

Really it is one day, but for some it is the loneliest time of the year. The longest 24 hours in the calendar. So I shall spare a thought for those who have no-one to spend the time with. For whom another Christmas brings back painful memories and get on with writing some cards. Oh yes! Theres always the e-card….hehe

15 comments:

Lori ann said...

I'm so glad for you that your niece will come for a visit!
I know what you mean, this time of year can do this to people,even those of us who are surrounded by friends and family...you are right, it's all the expectations. The older I get I really just try to make things simple.
I like the image of you and your Dad in Wales...
xx lori

Adrianne said...

I share your sensations about Christmas, both when it comes to the rosy view of Christmases-past and the dread of Christmas-soon-to-come. I think the latter reaction has to do with the anxiety associated with trying to live up to everyone else's expectations, which are all based on their own personal versions of the rosy Christmases-past and are all different from one another. I just try to remember that Christmas-present one day will (absent some unforeseen traumatic event) be integrated into everyone's catalog of all those rosy Christmases-past some day, too -- that always seems to take some of the pressure off. And yes, in my book at least, Thanksgiving involves the same set of emotions. I go back and forth on whether having two such nostalgia-laden holidays within a 4-week period is a good thing (all the anxiety is over quickly) or a bad thing (it's very tough when a person winds up hosting both holidays the same year, which this year I just narrowly managed to avoid). I'm there with you, my friend!

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

Yeah, I'm a firm believer in the lazy art of e-cards! :-) Have you seen Jacquie Lawson's site - lovely cards - it's paid site, but worth it.

As for Xmess (sic) - bah humbug says I! ;-)

Fire Byrd said...

Understand what you're saying.... for me Christmas run up is fab, as is Christmas lunch with my very small family..... But New Year, that's one for hiding my head under the duvet till it's all done and dusted.
I hope you have a lovely family time with your neice

Rob (Inukshuk Adventure) said...

In a complete rebellion against commercialism and it's evils we are not doing anything for Christmas this year. We will spend quality time with each other and think about loved ones far away. Quietly reflecting on our blessings - oh and keeping warm in these cold wintery times.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

My mother's birthday is Christmas Eve.....

We have really made this otherwise lovely holiday into something awful. But no matter what, I do feel for the people who spend time of any sort alone. Being alone is fine for so long, but you must connect and share happiness and love every now and then, even if it is just a couple of times a year.

I sometimes deliver meals to home-ridden senior citizens, and they just latch onto you, wanting to make any sort of conversation. Contact, conversation, interaction, love and attention of any sort...we all crave and need it.

How did I get on this topic? I just wanted to say my mother and your father share the same birthdays

Val said...

thanks for the affirmations guys xx

Lori - yup I really try to keep things simple and all we will really do is have a big fat lazy lunch with some chums...

Adrianne - you are so right!! thank goodness you managed to avoid hosting both events - phew!

Absolute Vanilla - thanks I will check the site. ecards save trees anyhow.

Fire Byrd - my American friend calls New Years Eve 'Amateurs Night' - we feel no pain about skipping that one :-)

Rob - your plan sounds perfect!

I do like the reconnections that happen about this time of the year. Its the one time we reach out to distant buddies and people we havent seen for years. I like that.

CBW - hah - do you also have to have separate cakes, pressies, cards etc? in our house it always meant a two day celeb!
You are so right about the need to connect, share happiness and love - even if its only once a year.
Good for you with the old folks!

have fun everyone xx

Angela said...

Dear Val,commenting is not over is it? I only just got here this morning - cold and cloudy, real wintery. You got us all reflecting on Christmas, me too. We always have it pretty simple - a real tree with real candles, a good meal with family, presents on Christmas Eve, a nice walk, something like that. Here in this small town there is no shopping frenzy (hardly any shops), but in Hamburg there is. Why? Why do so many people think it is a race? What you said I think is wonderful, remembering old buddies (living and gone)sending them e-cards or thoughts, humming a nice old Christmas carol...isn`t that good enough? I am thinking of you, my dear friend, and you don`t have to send me a card at all! Not even e. I wish you and all our thoughtful blog pals a Merry and Peaceful Christmas!

Val said...

Hi Angela -funny how i feel guilty for having these doubts - but i guess its what you make of it and i shall make it a time to reconnect and remember, and celebrate; steer away from the materialistic hordes and send out some cards....

Tessa said...

Val, such valid points you make… as are all the eloquent and thoughtful comments on this subject from your readers. I truly believe that it’s the monstrous commercialism that looms so large at this time of year which makes Christmas such a bitter, bling-laden pill to swallow nowadays.

Best to spend the day laughing and loving and living it up! The preparation of a yumtious – and unpretentious - feast with family and friends all sharing the chopping and slicing and mixing. Some mellow jazz as background sound, lots of the good grape and shared memories around a table lit with candles and festooned with colour.

A raucous game of Charades after the pud is the best way I know to slowly slide into a sleepy evening around the fire.

karen said...

Val, i do love your descriptions of the Christmasses past..I have to agree with lots of you .. the commercialised aspect of "Christmas shopping" has me running for the hills. not that we have much of an option here in Kasane, but that dreaded trip to a city to buy Christmas pressies is not happening this year!! No kids this year, very strange. not too sure what we will do... it will probably be more along the lines of escaping to the bush, as usual!!

I just have to say everybody's comments on this post are so lovely.. apart from most of them making me want to cry!

Val, I'm so happy to see my most beloved pinchusiony red lily!! do you know what its real name is? saves me trying to find that Veronica Roodt book of wild flowers... lol xx

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I think many people go through this during the festive period and it is quite understandable to feel empty. I couldn't though. After years of celebrating with my family and seeing the twinkle in my dad's eyes, I can never forget how much he loved this time of year and so I celebrate for him too.

CJ xx

Val said...

how lovely to read all your comments! thanks x

karen - all my books are at Selinda but i will find out the name and let you know xx

Tessa - I am really hoping for a day of laughter!

CJ - my father loved christmas family time too. I think my angst stems from more recent christmases.
part of me still loves the idea
xx

Tricia said...

Oh how right you are about those rose colored glasses. I sometimes now wonder how much angst my mother suffered while preparing her children's Christmas memories. I think I need to ask her, and then say thank you.

I spent the holidays in Africa a few years ago, and it is one of my most cherished Christmas memories.

Val said...

Tricia - thank you for your kind comments on this and on Billys story.
Yes do ask your mother! its too late for me to ask mine, but i have had the same thoughts :-)
have fun with it all
x