Blog Posts

Christmas (Part 2)

It’s that time of year again. Officially, this time, given this post is going up on the 25th of December my time. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all who read this.

I mentioned in my last blog how Christmas is more for young people, and why a lot of older people don’t really tend to have the holiday spirit as much as they once did. I also mentioned that one of the reasons for this is probability. This is what I will discuss today.

The more Christmas’s you experience, the higher the probability is that you’ll have a bad one. And I don’t mean that you don’t get the present you want, or you end up feeling sick from eating too much food. At the end of the day, that’s not what you’re going to remember. I don’t remember ever being upset at what I got for Christmas. The only gifts I remember vividly are the ones which stunned me. I remember going to New Zealand for Christmas one year. I remember my Nana and Grandad buying me the Charmed Book of Spells Box Set. Countless Angus and Robertson or Dymocks gift cards. I remember lovely clothes that I wore to death, or the Game of Thrones Monopoly set Mum bought for me one year.

A bad gift, or lack of an exciting one isn’t what ruins the holidays for people. What ruins it for a lot of people are car accidents. There are many statistics online that show that Christmas and New Years are when a large percentage of car accidents happen. People are in a rush to get places, or to buy last minute gifts, and they let down their guard when driving.

Another thing that can be problematic is family. As you grow older, you sometimes find that you don’t necessarily fit into the neat puzzle your family makes any more. This is particularly a problem for LGBT+ people who might not be accepted by all of their family. It’s also annoying for those unemployed, or single people, who constantly get asked questions they don’t know how to answer, or don’t want to. It can be hard to feel people picking you apart, insecurity by insecurity.

Suicide rates are high around this time of year, and no wonder. People stress about buying their friends and family the perfect presents. Some people can’t deal with their family when more and more alcohol is introduced to the mix. Some people don’t have anyone to spend the day with, and find themselves alone while everyone around them seems to be busy and happy.

Last year, 2017, a couple of weeks before Christmas, my stepdad took all of his medications he could find around the house. He tried to kill himself. My Mum called the ambulance, and followed him as he went walking around the streets, staggering around. The ambulance arrived not long after he collapsed, in the middle of the street, when she was about to try CPR while all her neighbours just watched.

He was in a mental health ward for a week, before being released. He hasn’t tried to kill himself again, although his depression is still high, and he doesn’t do anything about it. Mum now has to monitor his pills, and keep most of them hidden, so he can’t take them all again.

In November 2012 I fell off of a bus. Anyone who knows me likely already knows this story. I was on my way to the library in the morning, and just stepped off the bus. After falling, I looked down, to try to right myself, and noticed that my right foot looked to be at a rather odd angle. I said “I think I’ve broken my ankle.” As it turns out, I had. I had broken three bones in my right ankle, as well as dislocated it. When I got my cast, I got it in red and green for Christmas, and spent that Christmas hobbling around. It wasn’t until looking back on it later, and how hard walking was at that time, that I realised I must have broken my left ankle at the same time.

In 2009 I had an absolutely lovely Christmas. I had just finished high school, and was planning to go to TAFE, since I was just shy of getting into the university course I really wanted to do. All our family came to our place, and we spent time in the pool, or just spent time together. I remember Nana asking me the day before if Mum and I were going to get dressed up, or if it was going to be something casual. I told her we were going to get dressed up, although in the end Mum went for casual so she could be more easily in and out of the pool. I tried to be dressed up for solidarity with Nana for a while, before I changed to swimmers so I could escape the heat.

She looked beautiful that day.

The day after boxing day, Grandad started driving up to Cairns to visit some friends. One of my Aunts went to Melbourne to visit her husband’s family. My other Aunt went somewhere else. Meanwhile Mum and I were sitting at home, having a very quiet day, after receiving some sad news. My other Nana, Nana Mary, had passed away that morning. We knew it would be coming sometime soon. Nana Mary had been sick for a while, after dealing with a second bout of breast cancer. She had chosen to not continue chemotherapy after a while, since it was making her feel unwell, and she wanted to enjoy the rest of her time.

That evening, Mum got another phone call. Grandad wanted her to go check up on Nana. He’d tried everyone else he could think of, but it being Christmas time, no one else was around. Mum drove off to check on her. A little while later she called my stepdad, and he took off. For a while, I was home alone with my anxiety, wondering what could have happened. Then Mum’s friend, who had been over earlier in the day, came back and sat with me for a while, which only really served to ramp my anxiety levels up.

When Mum came home, it was with the news that my Nana had passed away this morning. Grandad was already on his way back, and I was left feeling shell shocked.

It had been hard knowing that I’d lost Nana Mary earlier that morning. I hadn’t known her all that well, and felt as though I had lost a lot of potential, that I would never be able to be as close to her as I was with my Nana over here. Then to hear that Nana had passed away as well?

I was very close with my Nana. I used to stop by her place after school on Friday afternoons, and we would go shopping together, then spend the afternoon together. We would talk about books, TV shows, and movies that we liked. We shared quite a similar taste. I still have moments when enjoying something and I think “Nana would have loved this”.

Christmas has never really felt the same for me since that day. I was 17, and the oldest child in my family, though the youngest was only two years younger. It wouldn’t be until a few years later when I would spend time with younger children who still enjoyed Christmas. Though personally I’m at the stage where I’d prefer not to celebrate it, and to instead just have a quiet day at home.

These are my personal experiences with Christmas. Everyone has their own. The older you get, the chances of a less than happy Christmas increase. It’s a simple mathematical fact that not every Christmas can be as magical as the ones we experience when we’re younger.

I would like to end this blog by asking everyone to try to share that magic with others today. It might be hard, but if you find someone who loves the holiday, who has stars in their eyes as they tell you what Santa gave them for Christmas, smile at them. If you’re having a quiet holiday by yourself, then share that magic with yourself. I might not be able to advise buying yourself something you might enjoy, but at least do something fun for yourself. Play a game. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Just be sure to spend some time doing something that could bring a smile to your face. Even if it feels as though smiling is the last thing you could possibly do, please try.

Blog Posts

Christmas (Part 1)

I’m not Christian. My family isn’t Christian. Nevertheless, we seem to belong to what feels to be the majority of Australians who celebrate the “Christian” holiday known as Christmas. Similarly, we’ve celebrated Easters, and Halloween, all holidays that are highly celebrated throughout the West thanks to Christianity’s pervasiveness.

It’s hilarious when you realise that these Christian holidays weren’t Christian at all to begin with, but instead so called “Pagan”. So called Pagan because that’s the term Christian’s used to categorise anyone who wasn’t Christian.

I could talk about the ridiculousness of Easter, based on Ostara, which worships a fertility Goddess, and how all the symbols we commonly think of as defining Easter, such as eggs, are actually symbols of fertility. What do eggs have to do with reincarnation? What does a bunny have to do with the son of God? Meanwhile, eggs are the unborn, waiting to be fertilised to come into the world. Rabbits, or bunnies, are creatures commonly known for their fertility, having many kittens in a litter, and breeding quite rapidly.

I could discuss Samhain, the day when the Wiccans believed the veil between this world and the next was thinnest. When the dead would walk amongst the living freely, an idea on its own which stands fundamentally against what Christians try to believe in.

But, it’s December. It’s the time of year Christians, Agnostics, and any number of other people, all celebrate Christmas.

Supposedly, according to Christians, somewhat over 2000 years ago, on the 25th of December, the son of God was born. I won’t argue the existence of Jesus. I don’t need people screaming at me for insensitivity, or anti-Christian messages. One thing I will state however, is that Jesus wasn’t born in December. I doubt anyone today knows the exact date. Or would be able to discover it. Not without some insane technology that we haven’t invented yet, at least. Or some evidence we haven’t found yet.

No one knows when Jesus was born, but we do know why Christians opted for claiming sometime in December. This is because it was this time of year when ancient Romans would celebrate the festival of Saturnalia, dedicated to the God Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, and attributed to the Titan Cronus in ancient Greek mythology. In Rome, Saturnalia was the liveliest festival of the year, the date connected with the winter sowing season.

Saturnalia isn’t the only non-Christian holiday which influenced what we now know as Christmas today. While Saturnalia was about joy, festivity, and merriment, there was also Yule, a Germanic tradition which celebrated the shortest day of the year. Traditionally, evergreens were cut and brought indoors, a symbol of life, rebirth, and renewal. Holly decorated doors, windows, and fireplaces, a protection against evil spirits. Mistletoe represented fertility, and provided protection against thunder, lightning, and other evils.

There are many other activities and symbols associated with Yule which Christians began to use for their own holiday. After all, what does a tree have to do with the birth of the son of God? What do candles, or bells, wreathes, elves, or gingerbread have to do with Christianity, and the celebration of a birthday?

It almost seems common knowledge to me now, yet I know there are still many other there who don’t know the origins of what is now called Christmas. That people believe Christianity to be the origin of these traditions and festivities, when they merely borrowed from other beliefs and cultures.

The most Christian thing belonging to Christmas is Santa Claus, who was derived from Saint Nicholas, a kind bishop in the fourth century. His story is the origin of Stockings hung by the fireplace, and of giving. It wasn’t until later, when Saint Nicholas became unpopular, that his idea was replaced with Santa Claus, and the idea of giving gifts became more pervasive.

Currently, Christmas is something often only really celebrated by children. By those who believe in the man in his bright red coat with his friendly face and rather rotund belly. It’s those children, who go to sleep on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting when they wake, to look under the tree and see all those presents addressed to them. While gift exchanging is hardly something reserved for the young, it’s the young who certainly enjoy it most. Much as it is they who enjoy decorating trees, or carolling.

I believe there are a great many reasons why people become less enthusiastic about Christmas as they grow older. Very little of it actually has to do with the disillusionment around the myth of Santa Claus. Instead, it’s more closely associated with probability, and the general disenfranchisement people my age have towards holidays, caused mostly by a combination of low employment rates, low wages, and high prices.

Let’s face it, on a holiday about giving, you can feel rather horrible when you aren’t able to afford things to give to those who mean something to you in your life. I know I for one feel rather guilty this time of year, when my friends usually have something to give to me, and I’m lucky if I have anything to be able to give them in return.

As for how probability leads to people being unhappy around this time of year, I shall continue with that conversation next week.