Monday, 22 December 2008

Christmas Present :: Bye, Humbug!

If I knew then what I know now, I’m not sure it would have made much difference, but it would have made some, and that would have been the difference between feeling ashamed and self-pitiful, and feeling self-pitiful and somehow immune. But I didn’t know then what I know now. All I knew then was that Christmas was a time that other people seemed to love but that I really hated.


I hated Christmas because my parents would use it as an excuse to drink themselves into oblivion.

I hated Christmas because I had to go to midnight mass and pretend that I believed in the concepts which I invariably heard expressed there, concepts such as love, acceptance, forgiveness, peace and compassion. Concepts such as God and the family. I hated church. I hated church because my parents would also be pretending, and they would put on a show for the people they knew at church, the people they called friends, and then when we got home they would revert to the scowling, cursing, ruthless vulgarians that deep inside they truly were.

I hated Christmas because I was a child like any other and I wanted Sonic the Hedgehog and a PC and I wanted videos, hundreds and hundreds of videos, but unfortunately Christmas gifts that were anything other than absolutely necessary were in our house deemed frivolous and irrelevant. One year I received a new school blazer. Another year I received a new carpet for my bedroom. Sometimes however, if I was lucky and my parents were feeling particularly festive, one of them would bung twenty quid in an envelope. We never had a tree.

I hated Christmas because I had to stay at home for most of it and pretend.

I hated Christmas because the only bit of Christmas I loved was spending time round Keith’s house. This caused a real schism within me. On the one hand, it was wonderful to be given the opportunity to be able to understand what Christmas was all about and to see why other people enjoyed it so much; on the other hand, it brought home everything that was lacking in my own family. On the whole though, I cherished the time I spent at Keith’s house, or – as I came to know it – The Great Escape.

And then I escaped for good, and was miserable to discover that I had begun to hate Christmas for new reasons.

Primarily, I hated it because I was scarred, and because hating it had become a habit.

As an adult, I spent quite a few Christmases alone, despite protests from people who knew me – to some people there is no greater crime against nature than spending Christmas alone. For the most part I never minded those Christmases though. I’d tell myself I was going to write, then I’d watch six films back to back instead. It was fun, but yeah, kind of sad fun. One Christmas I had a tin of meatballs for Christmas lunch. That was quite sad actually. I remember feeling rather unhappy at that point.

Then last year there was change and I had excellent fun. Christmas with kids is a a whole new kettle of fish and I hope to spend many more Christmases in future with children. Inshallah. Last Christmas seems like a long time ago now, and indeed it was. It was almost a year. It marked the beginning though, of a turning point.

This year promises to be even better, and this is the first time I can actually remember actively looking forward to Christmas.

This feels like the first Christmas of the rest of my life.

I can’t wait. I'm going to go mental this year.

The particularly great thing about this Christmas is that I already have everything I could possibly want, so everything else is a bonus.


And what about you? What do you want for Christmas?

Whatever it is, I really hope you get it.

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Anonymous said...

as a child, i had the opposite - i loved christmas, looked forward to it (except the church thing - although candles while singing was kinda cool). fun, family, decorations, lights and presents...

once my children were past 12 years old, we started a 'tradition' of just hanging out together, eating yummy food and watching movies / playing video games until our eyes would fall out...

and that's all i want for christmas this year - although they're 22 and 20, we're planning a weekend of just lounging around in our jammies, sleeping as long as we want and watching as many movies (and killing as many zombies via "Resident Evil") as possible...

can almost taste the joy in your post! Merry Christmas, Stan!

Inwardly Confused said...

I am lucky I have always had the best Christmas times, my family have always given us pretty much what we wanted and made it all so very special with lots of love and lovely food.
This year...It is my brother's birthday today and he has had a big op on his back, I can't go and see him as he lives in Hong Kong but I want him to be well and not in any pain for Christmas, I hope he and his wife have lots of fun. I want my sister to be happy and smiling, she is going through a divorce, I want my parents to stop worrying about my brother and sister, they'll be fine. I want my children and husband to stay just the way they are as they are perfect. I want my cold sores to heal up so I can kiss everyone, and I also want some n ice books (greedy)! Have a good one Stan, thanks for giving me something awesome to read all year. xxxxx

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

BdJ-I lost Christmas as a child, my parents joined a cult. So I went through a dazzling decade or 2 of overwrought making up for lost time and had grand lollapaloozas of xmas with my kids.

now, i'm mellow. I'm sure the glee will return once grandkids are in the mix. what do I want for xmas this year? to go home to France as quickly as possible. I think I just might get it, too.

have a happy holiday there, we all deserve such.

Shimacat said...

I'm glad you're looking forward to Christmas. It's a good feeling, isn't it? Go on, shower her with pressies, buy small delicious things to nibble, put clean sheets on the bed and have lots of films to watch afterwards.

This year I'm spending Christmas with the man I'm marrying next year - just him and me, making our own day, doing things our way. The house is full of presents, lights and tinsel, and I can't remember ever looking forward to Christmas like I do this year.

May yours be a wonder to you both and have a happy first Christmas.

Misssy M said...

You have to reinvent Christmas for yourself. Make your own traditions.

We've made a decision that this will be our last Christmas Day with extended family. From now on we will be our own Christmas Unit of Four.

we are going to start our own traditions that don't involve schlepping to anyone else's house and probably will involve a big walk with the dog early afternoon and staying in our jammies and playing with toys until noon.

Christmas is what you decide it is and I hope you have a great one, Stan.

My love to you and your kin.

Mrs. Hall said...

You get down with your bad self Stan!

You reclaim the magic you were denied as a wee one. You chop the tree down, bring it home, decorate, drink the nogg and be merry!

Be righteous in your merriment. Be arrogent in your joy. Let the Christmas spirit be the healer.

Merry Christmas!

Mrs. Hall

Anonymous said...

Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas!
Inshallah! He he..I liked that bit Stan.

Anonymous said...

Yay! What a wonderful, hopeful, joyful post! As a child, I loved Christmas, but when a friend (aged 7) told me there was no Santa, I felt horribly betrayed! How could my parents lie to me? It actually took me several years to get over that betrayal. Apart from that, Christmas was totally over the top. Home movies. My Grandfather dressed as Santa. Glorious food. When I had a child of my own, I told him about the tradition of Santa, and the story of St. Nicholas, but never lied to him about some fat guy being hauled across the night sky by flying deer. I told him it was a fairy tale, and that some children believe in it literally, but not to spoil it for them by bluntly telling them there is no Santa.

Anonymous said...

Hello Stan...
firstly hurray and congratulations about the book, but most especially about Morag ( and kitten).

I'm really sorry your christmases as a child were so void of warmth ( thank goodness for keith )but I have a feeling that this one will be just brilliant for you, it makes me smile just to think about it.

Have a lovely time x x x

Anonymous said...

I had similar feelings to yourself about Christmas. My parents split when I was 5 after which my sis and I would have to spend Christmas with my dad, his new wife and our three ugly step-sisters. It was torture mainly because my sister and I would have to get all excited over a lousy little colouring book while watching our step-sisters receive a gazillion lavish gifts - all before they headed off for their tropical holiday, while my Dad missed paying his child support over the next few months and we lived in poverty. I continued to hate Christmas until I met my partner and began to celebrate Wigilia on Christmas Eve. Despite being irreligious myself, their way of celebrating made more sense to me in that the celebration itself demonstrated the strong sense of family support I'd always craved. And when my daughter came along it actually became fun and I realised what I'd been hating all that time wasn't Christmas at all.

Merry Christmas, Stan. xx

Anonymous said...

I've always had warm, love filled, times come Christmas. I know that in this I have always been lucky and I do not take it for granted. Christmas is always my most favorite holiday.

I love it all, crisp air, the idea of snow (I live in Southern California- so snow really isn't a reality), mistletoe, Bing Crosby, hot apple cider, bright paper packages with ribbons, twinkling lights, waking up early and spending the day with my family and friends; you know, the real gifts that I am given every Christmas.

So, I can't honestly say that I can relate to the humbug attitude and I am sorry that Stan as a child didn't have the best Christmas experience. However, I am thankful that you had/have Keith and extremely happy that you have managed to find your Christmas spirit, Ebenezer. ;-)You'll have a splendid time, I'm sure of it.

All I want this year is for everyone to have a holiday (or whatever you want to call it) filled joy and love. Oh, and if you find that you have a little extra of two of those- take the time to share it with the world.

Also, Skates- I would love to get a pair of old fashioned quad skates but, I'll be happy with or without them.

May your days be merry and bright!

Anonymous said...

like you this is the first christmas of the rest of my life. I get to spend it with someone who loves me rather than owns me, and I intend to enjoy it

have a good one Bete x

Lily Lane said...

Loved this post, Stan. And in general, actually, I feel like your writing has gone from really good to fantastic since you and Morag got together. Nice :-)

What I want for Christmas is to be 7 years old again, have all my cousins around, play backyard cricket, and have a massive water fight and run under the sprinkler. Instead I am 20 years old, my cousins are all adults doing their own things, we've outgrown our backyard, and it's basically illegal to have waterfights and sprinklers due to the drought. At least I have happy memories though, and I'm sure the years will fly by until I have kids of my own to have such awesome Christmases with. Might have to find something to replace the waterfights with though.

Luka said...

Awww...Dickens'Christmas spirits did it all it one night, and you did it all in one blog post.

Merry Christmas - I'm glad it sounds like it truly will be this year!

Heidi said...

Wow - your Christmas past was spectacularly awful. I'm really sorry that was your Christmas growing up. Truly.

Here's to better and merrier Christmases in your future. I hope you have a peaceful and joyful deserve that.

Cat said...

I spent Christmas day alone, by choice, and it was fine. I felt quite wobbly on Christmas eve, but yesterday I pottered around, then had pizza and chocolate for dinner, and stayed in my pyjamas all day. I'm not religious and I don't have children, so it's not really a significant day for me - although other people seemed horrified by my plans!

I hope you had a lovely day, and got everything you wished for.