I think there’s something to be said for “ceremony” and “ritual”. Not in the creepy hooded robe “I’m going to sacrifice you to Mara the penis monster” sense, but particularly with regard to Christmas.
I say this upon some reflection on my own lack of enthusiasm for the festive period which I’ve been suffering for the past few years. At least some of this general sense of ambivalence towards the holiday season can be attributed to my depression, I’m sure, but perhaps it goes deeper than that. Perhaps it’s the fact that for the last [x] years, I just haven’t really “celebrated” Christmas as I used to when I was younger. I rarely bother with cards, considering them something of a waste of time and money; I don’t go out carol singing; I don’t write letters to Santa; though I must confess I do enjoy giving presents.
Perhaps I should re-adopt some of these pre-Christmas rituals to get me into the spirit. For example, I fondly recall the whole Christmas cards thing from my schooldays. It was a time to quite literally take stock of how many friends you had — and back in those days we didn’t have Facebook to make this process easier. No; you had to sit there with a notepad and a Tesco pack of 5 bajillion cards, writing each of them by hand and saving the “best” ones for the people you quite fancied. The following day at school, you’d give them out to people in person or, for those people you didn’t really care about that much (harsh, but true) you’d put them in the school’s “post box” system for some poor year 7s to come and collect and distribute later in the day. Following this, you’d eagerly grab every card you received, inevitably reading far too much into the fact that the girls you quite fancied put “love” in their cards while conveniently ignoring the fact that they’d put “love” in their cards to everyone, not just you.
And the whole Santa thing, too. The whole process of writing a letter listing all the things you’d like for Christmas, ending it with “I HAVE BEEN GOOD” while trying not to think about the thing you got told off for last week, leaving it by the chimney, eagerly awaiting a reply and then leaving a mince pie and glass of sherry by the fireplace on Christmas Eve; all that gave the whole experience a degree of magic that just isn’t there as an adult. I’m not saying we should all start believing in Santa Claus (or perhaps we should?) but I am saying that Christmas as a kid was clearly better.
It was, though, wasn’t it? You could always think of awesome things you’d like to get as presents. There’d be a “big present” to unwrap, possibly with smaller presents providing clues as to its identity. And you’d sit there smugly, thinking that you’d got the “best” gifts. (If TV is to be believed, you’d also have burst into tears if anyone had bought you a Soda Stream, but possibly not for the reasons the advert implies.)
So how to recapture that magic? I don’t know. I’m spending my first Christmas with the girlfriend’s family this year, and they have their own set of interesting rituals and ceremonies to take on. Will it be fun? I’m sure it will, but I doubt that magic of Christmas as a kid will ever be there again.