That time of year is upon us, whether it be Christmas, 'The Holidays', Festivus, or whatever else you decide to call it. It's here, loud, everywhere and in your face.
Over the past years and have liked this time of year less and less, with increasing passion, and sick of people calling me 'grumpy', 'a Grinch', 'Scrooge' and other sorted insults, it felt like time to explain my point of view and problems with this time of the year.
What's it about?
Is it about the birth of Christ? Supposedly, but that's exceptionally tenuous, shoe horned into winter celebrations that already existed in many parts of the world. As American led commercialism took hold, the religious aspects have diminished and specially over the past few years, I've barely noticed them. Which historically speaking is actually more accurate anyway.
Is it about gift giving? This tradition has reasonable pedigree, but what form it takes varies wildy depending on the part of the World. And again, has become blatantly more commercialised in recent years.
Is it about celebrating (or commiserating) Winter and the end of the year? In the Northern hemisphere most definitely, and this motivation makes the most sense, even though we have little contact with the land and harvests anymore to understand certain traditions and dishes we consume. When I lived in Australia, this made much less sense, and in fact I preferred Summer Christmas, as it was more lively.
Whatever the main motivation and reason (and I recommend this Wikipedia post for more details), this whole period is mostly about getting together with the ones you love (or feel obliged to associate with), which bring me to my next point.
Family, family, family
The period makes a lot of sense for family gatherings, but one of my main issues is that it sucks when you don't have much of a family. I come from a single parent, single child family, with all my grandparents dead. This makes things very, very dull. My wife's family isn't much better and is a long, long way away right now. I have other friends in similar situations for a variety of reasons and we all experience the same issue. When everyone around you is banging on about all the family members they have to visit and how tedious it all is, it's incredibly depressing.
As I've got older I have attended a couple of orphans/friends/single adult events, but still plenty of people visit families, and as more people have children, these aren't always possible to organise.
I don't want to come across as a whinger here, so to end on a more constructive note, spare a thought for your single and estranged friends, it's a lonely time for them.
I fully understand that for a lot of people, work parties, markets etc are an easy way/excuse to enjoy yourself. But personally I find the season used as an excuse or forced reason that you must enjoy yourself, and that gets irksome quickly. Events are full of awkward games and staged events that force you to have fun "because it's Christmas!!!!!" and if you don't take part you're often made to feel like a pariah.
People have fun in different ways and time of year doesn't excuse obnoxious behaviour.
Money, money, money
I am not the first and won't be the last to comment on the blatant commercialism of the modern festive period. I have mostly boycotted taking part in this in past years (mixed with me often plainly forgetting to buy anything), but again, you are often made to feel like a pariah for not taking part in the humongous cash-fest that is this time of year. There are many reasons people decide not to get involved, don't make people feel awkward for their decision.
In all honesty this is my biggest issue with this time of year and it's a selfish one. I am easily bored and at this time of year most things shut down and people vanish for weeks. This is better in bigger cities full of international people and I have had increasing success inviting other equally bored and lonely people to events I organise during this period, which at least demonstrates there are others who feel the same. I for one will keep making shit happen all year round and screw the season or weather.
OK, I'm off to burn another orphan, however you choose to celebrate, commiserate or ignore this time of year, spare a thought for your fellow human and remember that everyone is different, and tolerate that. I think that's what this time of year is actually supposed to be about.