As I’ve never been Christian, it has always felt slightly awkward referring to this time of year as Christmas. However, seeing as most of the traditions I enjoy were originally part of the Yule celebrations, I feel that it’s still acceptable for me to join in… even if I’m usually a little careful of the language I use. Having a fir tree decorated with lights in your home, drinking hot spiced alcohol (wine or cider), enjoying a celebratory feast, spending time with family and friends, plus some thoughtful gift giving are all traditions that can be enjoyed without religious connotations. It’s the perfect way to lift spirits at the end of a long year, and to bring some cheer into those short winter days that Britain is currently enduring. Having experienced the extremely long days in northern Sweden at midsummer, I can only imagine just how little light they must get at this time of year and so can’t complain about my lack of daylight too much! In fact, Wikipedia’s description of the origins of Swedish Jul celebrations sounds pretty much like my perfect celebration: “the Yule season was a time for feasting, drinking, gift-giving, and gatherings, but also the season of awareness and fear of the forces of the dark.” I think my seven year old Nightmare Before Christmas tree will perhaps live to see another year for this reason.
2013 has been a spectacularly stressful year for me at work and so I was really looking forward to the festive break. I work for a university and the place is closed from 25th December to 1st January, meaning that a reasonably relaxing break is ensured without using up any additional leave entitlement. Even so, I booked 23rd and 24th December off too because that break just couldn’t come soon enough. After a weekend stay with my parents, I visited Karolina Laskowska to discuss something very exciting indeed – all will be revealed soon! – and then spent Xmas eve playing Cards Against Humanity with some wonderful friends. The 25th itself was all about gorgeous gifts, abundant alcohol and delicious food, but I shall have to stop referring to it as Doctor Who Day because of the utter disappointment that was this year’s episode. Thankfully, the re-run of Doctor Who at the Proms earlier in the day, plus a gift of some TARDIS earrings (which will look great with the shoes my sister bought me), helped to ensure I didn’t dwell on it. And then there was a fabulous feast of ‘turduckineafowl’ with even more booze to help me forget.
As I sat wearing brightly coloured retro plastic jewellery and a hand knitted shawl, working out where to put everything in my new handbag, I realised that the best gifts always have meaning. They show that someone really knows you, that they listened, or that they spent a chunk of time/money just to make you happy. Finding the right gift for someone is a great feeling, and one that can sometimes get lost at this time of year when the pressure mounts and the shops seem to be full of nothing but crappy gift sets. To those of you who braved the consumerism of Christmas and came out relatively unscathed, I salute you! Why not take time to think about who you really appreciated being in your life this year – regardless of whether or not you swapped gifts – and send them a Happy Holidays message. Like the stars on the What I See Project’s tree, a short tweet/text/email will help spread the joy. Tis the season, after all.
First image via the What I See Project‘s Twitter feed. Second image by lipsticklori.