I like Christmas as much as the next person but when it’s still miles away and someone says , ‘it doesn’t feel very Christmassy this year’ I can feel my fondness for the festive season begins to wane a little. I like to celebrate Christmas at Christmastime; but the Christmas frenzy is starting earlier and earlier in Ireland, no sooner have the plastic spiders and rubber masks of Halloween been taken from the shelves, than they’re replaced by a singing Santa and a rail of Christmas jumpers that light up.
We all have to worry about how many paydays there’ll be before Christmas and of course we try to offset as much of the spend against Novembers salary and try to leave Decembers salary free for the last minute rush, but does that really mean we have to put foam antlers on the car in November?, or indeed at all? Quite honestly foam antlers are intimidating to people like me who enjoy a nice contained Christmas from around the 20th December to New Year’s Day. They signify the hysteria in Christmas that some people seem to thrive on and leave the likes of me, feeling bullied into joining in.
Little did I know when I came back in Ireland unexpectedly a few weeks back, that I would be swept into the pile and within days beginning to feel stifled by the hype, despite my best effort to remain immune. What happened to December? The month that was a time of year in its own right, with Christmas thrown in at the end, it’s gone! Its Christmas all month now and the month of December has been eradicated, taken over by Christmas.
For all those arriving in Ireland during November and December, for reasons other than giving gifts to those that have plenty, there should be a warning over the arrivals door at the airport, ‘beware, it’s Christmas, to ensure a healthy trip, we suggest minimal contact with infected and affected people, as it greatly increases the likelihood of contracting the condition’.
It’s toxic, the feeling that if you don’t start stockpiling tins of celebrations and boxes of mince pies, that it will all be gone. The pressure that parents are putting themselves under to get ‘the toy’ or the match attack card which is to ensure that their children have a happy Christmas and in turn reassure them that they are great parents is huge and in turn is seeping into my plans for a simple Christmas as I reluctantly place the wooden train set back on the shelf and opt instead for a top of the range Hot Wheels set which realistically I know will never earn its price but I can’t afford to take the chance and get branded a scrooge. So like the mere minion that I am, I start stockpiling tins of roses and filling my trolley with cleverly packaged, but badly designed toys, which will never be played and getting more and more miserable by the euro.
Bearing in mind that Qatar is a Muslim country that does not recognise Christmas. But what Christmas in the middle east lacks by way of glitter and fake show, it makes up for by providing a beautifully stress free backdrop for creating ‘the simple Christmas’. A Christmas that doesn’t drag out for 6 weeks only to end on a crushing anti-climax in early January when you end up broke and fat and desperately looking for the next event to overreact to, just to give purpose to your life.
I just didn’t appreciate the beauty of the last five carefree Christmases abroad, the limited decorations and pitiful plastic Christmas trees of Carrefour, lending themselves to my thorough enjoyment of a ‘contained Christmas’, No pressure on where we visited Santa, no trips across the country to see Santa in some Irish winter wonderland, just a simple trip to a supermarket Santy in a shopping mall, nothing crazy. And the simplicity of planning the dinner when there’s no extended family around, no arguments over whose house to have dinner in and whose relations to invite, because there are none, another pressure avoided.
Living abroad, particularly in the Middle and Far East strips away the faff and hype that is smothering Christmas in Ireland.