The tendency for Christmas over the years has been for it to spread out, much like my waistline. When I was younger—even ten years or so ago—I saw Christmas as a landmark day. There were celebrations either side, of course: but these were like barons and marquesses surrounding a monarch in their pomp. Christmas day was all-presents, all-booze, all-food: three enormous and unusual meals (bagels and eggs, and cheese and pickles, either side of the fattened nut roast itself). And we would usually have the luxury of all our closest family with us on at least the day; cousins, aunties and the like: we saw them either before or afterwards.
This year’s celebrations, however, continued the trend away from this monarch-and-cohorts affair towards a vaguer, longer but—when averaged out—no less intense period of time. As has been the case for a few years now, my own parents have insisted we don’t travel abroad, but instead have an early Christmas with them: in late November. Even setting aside that major reconfiguration of Christmas, though, this year my sister-in-law (recently returned from Australia with her now fiancé) only arrived at the family nest on Boxing Day, having prioritized his family this year.
For that reason, present-giving had to be rearranged to match: our seven-person Secret Santa necessarily happened after they arrived; also, timings on the day itself had also meant that K. and I didn’t open presents to each other until around lunchtime (we’ll be upper-middle class before you know it.) Big meals were also rearranged, with a big Boxing Day fondue replacing at least part of the day before’s typical blowout. Soon we’ll be heading home, for present-giving with friends, and enforced duvet days with boxes of chocolate and bread products. And this too will blur what I used to think of as a focal point of “Christmas”, into at least a week or two, with the day itself now serving mostly for the orientation of everything else.
Maybe that’s a healthier Christmas: a slower Christmas, a Christmas less dependent on the perfection of a single day. If something goes wrong; if my wonky digestion proves unequal to the task; if any of us get tired, or out of sorts; then: better luck next day. We’ve recorded Doctor Who. Sis isn’t here yet. Christmas, the Christmas you secretly long for each year, will wait a few hours now; or even a day. So go off and have a kip, or a bath. It’s fine. Be merry. And if you can’t be merry, look after yourself.