It occurred to me while watching the ‘wrong’ Scrooge. That is the one from 1970 with Albert Finney. The 1951 film with Alistair Sim is the ‘right’ one. Obviously, The Muppets’ Christmas Carol is the best of the genre. Some things about Christmas can be disappointing. Maybe the Dickens book that pertains most to Christmas is actually Great Expectations.
For the week before Christmas I get excited. Child-like excited. I get butterflies in my stomach. I enjoy the ‘to do’ list of festive things. I want to make it all perfect. Then I start to think about the supermarket ad version of Christmas. The big, bustling family. Games. Champagne in a big ice bucket. A perfectly fitting velvet dress. A handsome husband – OK I get that one, but no chance he’s wearing a suit. Snow falling. A puppy with a red bow around its neck. It’s absolutely ridiculous. It’s a work of fiction. It’s a nonsense spreading to make us feel like somehow we are failing so we buy stuff and feel like we are winning.
While scrolling through Instagram tonight I saw several adverts for jewellery and lingerie. Not only are we supposed to save for, to budget for, buy, wrap and deliver presents. Not only are we supposed to become expert cooks. Not only are we supposed to have beautiful and tasteful Christmas decorations. We are supposed to achieve all this in scraps of lace and fancy jewellery. It’s DECEMBER! It’s cold. We haven’t had vitamin D since September. We have replaced vegetables with Quality Street. We are at the beginning or tail end of some kind of virus. We have endured some of the most depressing world events in decades and we just want a couple of weeks to read and rest in cosy socks and the comfort of our sofas. Sponsored Instagram posts. Go. Away.
Then, of course, we hear a lot about those struggling at Christmas. They struggle all year. But with the hype and excess of the season, the difference between the resources we have feel particularly stark. Knowing that some people will be relying on charity to get a meal on Christmas Day and families in the city I live will only wake up to presents because of public appeals is difficult. Some will not see a single soul all day. Others will be sick. It doesn’t make me feel bad about how I choose to celebrate Christmas, but it does make me feel very, very grateful that I can spend the time with people I love. It makes me more charitable but I know I am only contributing to a sticking plaster, rather than a cure.
My expectations have definitely changed over the years. It’s less about the presents and party dresses and much more about people and gratitude. I wonder whether the buying of stuff, shifting it between each other’s houses and finding a space for it is really necessary, but I focus on finding something that the recipient will treasure or enjoy, rather than store. I look forward to long family meals where we eat the things we all enjoy and share stories.
What I really want for Christmas is really quite simple. I want to know everyone I care about is safe and well. I want to spend time with my family, and especially my husband. I want to sit in our home and look at our lovely Christmas tree. I want to read books, watch films and rest. I want to be grateful for what we have, reflect on what has happened this year and once the celebrations are over, move on towards the brighter days and all the things we have to look forward to.