Christmas Past: Part Two

In part one, I wrote about my childhood love of the Christmas season. But it wasn’t long before the magic wore off.

In my teens, I got myself a regular girlfriend. All is going well, then Christmas gets mentioned. She tells me that she has to spend Christmas at home with her family. My mum tells me that I am expected to do the same with mine. So Christmas starts to become something to get past, so that life can return to normal on the 27th. Besides, I know there’s no Santa by then, and my dad has long since stopped piling the toys at the end of my bed.

Now I am twenty-four years old. My dad has left my mum for another woman, and I definitely cannot leave her on her own for Christmas. So I don’t go to see the woman who will become my wife the following year, and she is expected to stay with her family. Which set of parents get our company starts to become more important than the real reasons for the celebration, and also takes over from the tradition of all the families meeting in one place.

People have moved around, and no longer live that close to each other. So I have to make choices.

Once I am married, my wife graciously accepts that my mum is on her own, so we will go there on the 25th, and to her family on the 26th. Three years later, I become an EMT working shifts, and all previous rules are abandoned when I have to work on the 25th, a ten-hour day shift. After trying to resuscitate a small child found dead in its cot on Christmas morning, then later an elderly man who collapsed and died as he was carving the turkey, I wasn’t feeling very festive when I got home from work to eat with my mum and my wife.

For the next thirty-three years, I did shift work as an EMT or with the Metropolitan Police. I used to try to get the 25th off, usually having to agree to work on New Year’s Eve instead. When I managed to get a free day, I had often been working a night shift before, coming home like a zombie, then having to drive to see my mum and go through the motions of appearing to enjoy a Christmas meal.

It wore me down. It was a chore, not something enjoyable. A whole year of stress, bulding up to two days that I always dreaded.

I grew out of Christmas.

66 thoughts on “Christmas Past: Part Two

  1. The child in the cot would do me in and certainly take away any festive mood. After years of managing families spread everywhere, we accepted that Christmas can be any day, not just the 25th. That was a great relief. This year we will be alone, Zoom with our children and family. Looking at the bright side, thank goodness for technology. Best to you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Any time there is cultural pressure to feel a certain way on a certain day I resist. I bought a wreath because I love them. I bought presents for the grandchildren because they appreciate them. Since we didn’t travel this year Charlie and I have almost no gifts for each other. We don’t need anything and only enjoy giving art to each other that we find on our travels. No travels, no art this year. I have had better Christmases since I left home since they are alcohol free. My parents used to get into it Christmas afternoon each year since the drinking started with orange juice cocktails in the morning! I don’t miss that at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have wine in the evening on the 25th. I cannot drink any earlier than around 5:30 pm, or I would just go to sleep. 🙂
      I like the sound of your laid-back Christmas this year, Elizabeth.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My early adult life was spent working behind the bar, so I was always working, but also having fun 🙂
    Then I lived away from family so went along to whoever would have me.
    Now I just hide until its all over, the kids can never find me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel like I dodged several bullets by living in a different country from my family. My parents are divorced and when that happened we stopped going to spend Christmas with my grandparents (both sets would come together) and started having to choose between my mum and dad. Now we just automatically spend Christmas with Mr O’s parents and it’s lovely. Prior to me meeting Mr O we used to host big “orphan’s Christmasses” in our shared houses with flatmates and whoever else wasn’t close to their family. Those were good too.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve tried to cut back on the things that make Christmas stressful, and focus in on the things I love, like being with my children and grandchildren, expanding my faith, gifting the people I love. For me it’s still a magical time of year, filled with mystery and joy and of course some stress. Love your honesty Pete, you encourage us to take a deeper looked into why we do what we do. C

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sorry to read how real life got in the way of what was supposed to be a joyous occasion…I’m reminded of what Rock Balboa said to Adrian when she told him it was “Thanksgiving”: “to you it’s Thanksgiving. To me it’s Thursday.” That’s how I feel about most holidays!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Christmas is a pain in the arse, so I’m not going to bother with it. Most years, I like to at least stroll through the Ethel M Chocolates cactus garden, with its spectacular display of holiday decorations, but this year, due to COVID-19, you have to make a reservation. Bah humbug!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can see why, Pete. As a stagehand I spent most of my Christmas days working either Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker. I got the joy of watching my children opening the gifts from Santa and then later the joy of children in the audience enjoying the performance.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think your job and the gruesome reality of life took away the magic of Christmas. I had the best Christmases as a child, then they slowly matured and the excitement cooled little by little every year. As kids we always want to be older, but when we get there, we realize it came with a cost.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. My wife Christine and I have allowed xmas to nearly vanish. We do not send cards or buy presents and do not expect either although when cards come it is fine, we don’t chuck them in the bin . . for a while anyway.
    As an only child, like Pete, I always felt obliged to visit my parents and then my mum, after my father’s death, on the 25th and though this was not unpleasurable it seemed uncomfortably inescapable.
    The horror of buying presents on xmas eve is an event I don’t miss too much.
    We generally have a few people for xmas dinner which I enjoy very much.
    It is difficult but one has to sometimes make decisions for the sake of one’s mental health.
    Happy holiday everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I grew out of it many years ago. Our eldest son and his wife invite us on Christmas Day and then her parents the following year. Our youngest son and his wife used to have two Christmas dinners as they’d go to one set of parents for lunch and then the other set for evening dinner before we agreed with the other set of parents to all meet up at some point on Christmas Day for just one dinner! This year I’m cooking for the youngest son and his family on Christmas Day and then the eldest son and his family on Boxing Day. What a faff. I’d rather go to my caravan!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love Christmas and most years it was just about me and my husband and our kids. Because we live in a big country and we didn’t all live in the same town.
    Now that the kids are grown up, they’ve their own lives and we still have the distance. And have had the experience of at least one of our children’s partner taking against us, so that made catching up for any occasion difficult.
    I leave my Christmas tree up all year (it is small) but just on top of the bookshelf until it is really Christmas time. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our tree is six feet tall, so couldn’t be left up all year. It seems that more than three months of every year is dedicated to stressing out about a two-day holiday. And it never gets any easier even now I am old! 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I have a second job in retail this year Pete and Christmas is a humdinger of a time!
        We had huge trees when the kids were little, but I have a basic stick tree now, so I can keep it up. I have my most precious, gifted decorations on it year round.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. I kind of grew out of Christmas too, Pete. And actually now, I dread it coming. We try to ignore it. Not everyone loves Christmas. But peopleseem to think that everyone does!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I could imagine a day spending Christmas like that Pete. Here, Nissa’s family comes over on the 24th then Christmas day is usually set as a family reunion on Obet’s father’s side of the family. they take turns to sponsor it every year. I wonder if I’ll be able to see Nate this coming Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Pete, we have four children and have never pressured them to spend Christmas with us. We do love to see them and spend time with them, but for me, it can be any day. It can make for some quiet Christmas days, but I would rather that than make them choose. We have always supported our grandchildren waking up in their own homes on Christmas morning. I can understand how the tragedies and the work shifts could alter your view of the holiday. Your places of work would be tough on any given day, let alone Christmas.

    Liked by 3 people

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