Has the magic of Christmas lost its ho ho ho and become more of a ho-hum?
I remember it like it was yesterday.
When I awoke early on Christmas morning, my first joy was to revel in the knowledge I was up before my brothers. I would creep into the lounge room to the Christmas tree; bypass my own Santa sack to inspect the bulges in the ones belonging to my siblings. Then, once satisfied I knew what their loot contained, I delighted in delving into my own.
After waking my older brothers, it was on to mum and dad’s room where I would bounce on the bed, showing off whatever gift was that year’s favourite. The year I received a Walkman was particularly bouncy. Some time later, it was off for Christmas lunch at my dad’s parents – to receive more presents, giggle at my Nanna who would always don the paper crown from the cracker, laugh myself silly at the hopeless jokes they contained and screw my nose up at the brandy custard I had insisted on tasting.
What a day Christmas was … and it was just getting started. Next stop was mum’s parents. There, tradition was to sit around the Christmas tree while the presents were handed out one by one. There was more food of course as well as the real highlight - playing with the cousins I saw once a year and comparing who got the best gifts from Father Christmas.
So after having played and ate and drank and talked and ran, skipped and hopped all day long, I was finally coerced into bed, happily exhausted. Christmas Day was over for another year.
They are memories I treasure. Even once I stopped believing in Father Christmas, the day still meant a lot to me. It doesn’t anymore. What happened?
There are two sides to Christmas Day. One is filled with magic for kids who wait with gut-wrenching nervous anticipation to see what gifts Santa will deliver from the North Pole. It’s shrieking with delight at the crumbs left behind from the biscuits you left for him. If you were in my household, it also involved dashing outside to see how much of water the reindeer had consumed from the bucket you had filled.
The other side to Christmas is religious, aka the ‘true meaning’. It’s the day Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s the three wise men who brought oddly-named gifts to the Messiah, who slept in a barn because there was no room at the inn.
I’m no longer a kid. I’m also not religious. As I’ve got older, I’ve puzzled over what is it I was actually celebrating on Christmas Day.
Some believe that Christmas is a time to remember those less fortunate. When I think of those less fortunate than myself, I picture people starving to death on the Horn of Africa (a cause I donate to), not the kid down the street who didn’t get a Nintendo DSi. I never got rollerblades or a trampoline and I’ve managed to get on in life. Just.
Why the tinsel and lights, turkey, ham and chickens and wishing a merry, merry day?
On the whole, people seem stressed out at Christmas. They rush around the shops, trying to find the ‘perfect’ gift while lamenting what they can’t afford. There’s groaning about how much food and alcohol will be on offer while we try to contain our ever-expanding waistlines.
Family is out. As individuals, I get on well with them. Together? That’s a party best avoided.
So if I don’t believe in Santa, don’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday and family dos are a don’t-go-there, what’s left?
If I have children, I won't deny them the magic of Christmas as I remember it but for a single, non-believer, the joy of Christmas is in hibernation.
Rebekah Holliday is an online journalist with Fairfax Media.