A jolly, holly holiday. The most wonderful time of the year. Season of goodwill. Christmas holds some pretty high expectations. WHAM! is on repeat in your head and there’s a constant excuse to consume copious amounts of mulled wine. Not to forget, we’re forced to embrace those family members who we find difficult - to say the least.
We all know those people who LIVE for Christmas. The ones who have the Christmas tunes on by November, itching to dec the halls before it’s socially acceptable and will have no one bringing down their spirit. But often, the pressure to be overtly joyful and generally happy in this period is huge. If you’re not a Christmas-obsessed-polar-express-super-fan, then you're a 'grinch' who hates fun.
Undoubtedly, this year will be distinctly different. Although new government guidelines are allowing some leeway with the mixing of households, it doesn't change the fact that for many, traditions and normal Christmas routines have been put on hold. For students, term has been cut short, socials have been cancelled, and while this means we have saved some much-needed money, the usual excitement and anticipation has been dampened.
I’ve decided the most appropriate descriptor for Christmas is melancholy. It's bittersweet. Sweet is the cheer, the joyfulness and the vast amounts of mince pies and Quality Streets to be devoured. Bitter is the memories it churns up for many, and the pain of loneliness or the space of a loved one unfilled this year. This year more than ever we are mourning what Christmas once looked like. On a superficial level, we might not get to do the things we normally would: the pub with friends on Christmas Eve, travelling to see extended family or festive balls. But more seriously, for many, Christmas can be difficult. It can be a time that reminds us of all we’ve lost, or everything we haven't got. Or it can simply be that despairing feeling of coming to another year end, reflecting on the months gone by and everything we have or have not achieved. As a student, this period doesn't really feel like a ‘holiday’ anymore - more of a time characterised by heavy revision and drowning in essay writing, not leaving much time for the good cheer that we’re told to be feeling.
In our digital age, we’re able to instantly compare our ‘Christmas Experience’ with that of our peers, celebrities, and that old school friend who you haven't spoken to in 8 years. Whilst we know that social media is nothing more than a highlights reel with a few good filters, it doesn't help when we’re bombarded with other people's joy (and brand new uggs.) This then gives way to the thief of happiness: comparison. Not everyone's family is able to spend these prolonged periods of time together, punctuated by tense games of Monopoly and fighting over the TV remote for control of the next Gavin and Stacey re-run. For some of us, getting through the day is Christmas’s biggest achievement. Is it really Christmas unless you fall out over a board game?
Although I’m keen to embrace the festive season in all it’s oddity this year, having received a chain message from my mum including the ‘10 best covid christmas cracker jokes’, I can safely say, this is a crossover I’m reluctant to get behind.
Jokes aside, I want to encourage you not to be too harsh on yourself this Christmas. These are exceptional circumstances, and we can't be expected to feel completely festive, ecstatic and joyful the entire time. If you don't want to celebrate this year, perhaps you’ve finally had it with Mariah Carey playing in every supermarket since late October, then that’s fine too. And if you’re one of those lucky people who thrive in the Christmas season, take a second to look out for your friends who are reluctant to go home, or who feel the weight this time of year. It is a tricky season for so many, and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of our own world, forgetting not everyone is so lucky. But after all, it is the season of goodwill, so maybe challenging yourself to bless someone in some way is a good place to start. Whether that’s checking in on your elderly neighbour, donating toys for children less fortunate, or as simple as sacrificing the last roast potato for your hungry brother (the ultimate act of love.)
We can all do our bit to make this - very odd - Christmas as enjoyable as possible.