It’s finally here
Like it has, the year before
And every other year before that
And as they say, ‘It is the most wonderful time of the year’.
Well, give or take a little bit, I guess.
Those of you who know me well, might already know this. I love December. I love the Winter. And most of all, this lovely little week that snuggles comfortably between Christmas and New Years – I love that too. And, as I’m sitting here drinking some mulled wine, biting into some home-baked Pizza in a climate that is slightly below ‘toasty’ and watching a re-run of ‘Love Actually’ on television (for the umpteenth time!), I’m feeling nostalgic.
I’ve often wondered why I have such an affinity towards this seasonal holiday period. And no, it wasn’t a religious inclination. In fact, after years of pondering (and permutations & combinations that would make my High School Math teacher so proud!), I narrowed it down to one thing. Since I was an only child who did not have any cousins around for the hols, I spent most of my childhood Christmas holidays watching English movies that would release on VHS (yes, remember VHS? Good days!) – ones that coincidentally fell under the genre of Holiday movies (essentially the movies that would lift your spirit and always had happy endings; well, almost always)
So partially ‘brainwashed’ by these movies (and lots of Enid Blyton books – she is still one of my favourite authors), I started to imagine myself celebrating Christmas. Yes, with the entire package – the decorated tree with plenty of gifts underneath, a fresh white blanket of snow outside, carols being sung somewhere in the background, eggnog in one hand and cookies in the other and eyes rife with the expectation that Santa would drop down the chimney to give me all the gifts that I would want.
Of course, none of this happened. But, we are often the most optimistic during our childhood. So despite being upset, we still continue to hope. That maybe, next year, Santa won’t forget us. As we grow older, the optimism slowly gets crushed by this Incredible Hulk like character called ‘reality’. He roars and bellows (and even tears off his clothes sometimes) and tells us what he calls ‘The Ugly Truth’ – that Santa doesn’t exist; that Christmas is just a festival – just like many others we have; and the most important one of them all, that any gifts we got were courtesy our parents. Since I got none, I was livid when Mr.Hulk grunted all this in my ear. ‘How dare they!’ I thought, while I looked up at the inky black sky waiting to hear those little whistling bells of Santa’s reindeer driven sleigh. See, I still couldn’t let that image go.
Fast forward a few years later,
I ended up in London. Magnificent, majestic and beautiful London. A place that I knew so little about, but would soon replace whatever visions I had of the word Home. During my first year in London, I was so excited about Christmas; because those little brainwashed images were started to creep back in. So late- November, when the decorations started to go up and the large Christmas tree appeared on campus , I was over the moon. Of course, the fact that my lovely wife (then unmarried partner) was also with me, added to the excitement. I was perhaps, the only person on campus who could often be seen walking around in the middle of the night, enjoying the below freezing cold and still smiling. And of course, it snowed. (not as much as I’d like, but hey, beats sandstorms)
It was my first ‘real’ Christmas, and though I didn’t get a gift, I still loved it. In fact, I was ecstatic that the evil Hulk of reality could no longer mess with my head. Everything was as perfect as a I had imagined it to be.
But then, as with everything, the rosiness of it all started to slowly disappear.
For the remaining seven years that I called London home, I slowly slipped through the crevices and became one of them; a sort of semi-grinch who was forever murmuring. Okay, not throughout. The murmuring was purely seasonal, especially a bit more towards this ‘festive period’ that started in November and culminated in the New Year. And I wasn’t alone. Along with millions of other Londoners and people across Britain, we collectively murmured about a number of things.
We murmured in November when all across Britain, the retail stores started playing those discs of Christmas music over and over again, till it was etched in our memory. It was fun initially, because it helped us start the countdown to the big day. It made the staff in the stores a little less grumpier (I’ve worked as one of them) and the shopping experience a lot better. The only glitch was that it appeared as if every store that we visited had the same disc in an infinite loop.
The murmuring reached a slightly higher note in late-November when everyone across North America was celebrating Thanksgiving and then Black Friday. Not because we wanted to feel thankful about things. But because we did not have the holiday. And then of course, because we did not have the Black Friday deals, which would have so helped with our Christmas shopping.
In December, we murmured about the biting cold winds, the sunny yet chilly mornings, the insanely freezing nights and the “adverse weather disrupting the trains and buses” messages from the Transport for London (TFL). Not to mention about having to travel to work in the cold and on ice-rink like roads.
As we gradually moved into mid-December, the murmuring slowly gave way to a sort of complaining. Some of these ‘complaints’ would be about:
- Costa and Starbucks taking advantage of the winter and increasing the prices of our favourite lattes and cappuccinos. But then we loved the festive cups and couldn’t do without our shots of hot drinks. So we bought them anyway.
- The late sunrises and early sunsets, the fact that it was dark when we both started and finished work and how this made us feel like we had no sunshine at all
- The Christmas lights and how they were just a marketing sham into making us “feel good” about spending more money; which then led us to think about how much shopping we had left to do for Christmas and how little time we had
- How those charity sales people on the street heckled us as we rushed to finish our Christmas shopping. But then, we also complained about the world being insensitive when we saw that Christmas special documentary about how many people across Britain did not have a home to go to or warm food to eat
- How much we wanted a White Christmas, but at the first sign of that tiny little snow flake we were ready to huddle back inside by the heater or the fireplace, away from the whiteness of it all
- How we were ‘coerced’ in to spend a lot of money on Boxing Day, buying stuff that we did not need or did not fit into. But we bought it anyway because it was on offer.
- How unfair it was when New Year’s day fell on a weekend, and how the Government owed us another extra day of holiday
- And of course, finally when we all huffed and puffed in January, we’d complain about putting on those extra pounds from all the drinking, eating and merry-making.
But today, as I sit in a much warmer place by comparison and think of the countdown to Santa’s big visit, I can’t help but miss everything that we complained about then.
I miss the cheery atmosphere.
I miss the frost on my window panes.
I miss the festive decorations around town.
I miss the Christmas carols and the carol singers outside the door.
I miss the pulling of those paper Christmas crackers laden with the most obnoxious gifts.
I miss the delight of the annual office Christmas parties and the kick of a glass of warm mulled wine, that warms you right up on those frosty nights.
And much more.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that for me, Christmas is not about the celebration of a day.
To me, it is about enjoying the run up to the big day; it’s about the frenzy of finding the right present for your loves ones; it’s about the wrapping of the gifts as inconspicuously as possible; it’s about donating warm clothes to the less fortunate; it’s about enjoying the numerous cups of eggnogs, plates of gingerbread cookies and glasses of mulled wine; it’s about smiling at one another and spreading the cheer; it’s about being with your loved ones. It’s also about being a Santa to someone; and retaining that glee-filled smile when you get your gifts.
And of course, it’s about less complaining and being thankful for all that we have.
And yes, I still believe in Santa and the spirit of this holiday season. It makes me smile and keeps alive, that little child in me.