Thursday, 18 December 2008

The Spirit of Christmas

I have noticed that in the last couple of years, Christmas has acquired the nasty habit of creeping up on me.
I checked my snail mail a couple of days ago (after 6 weeks) and discovered it was filled with Christmas cards from friends. My first thought was that they're all a bit hasty with these things. I like to imagine that people get my cards right before Christmas, not weeks ahead of it. I have it all planned very carefully... I will buy the cards, write a long traditional Christmas letter, send them just in time for them to be received as close as possible to the 25th of December.
But hold on... 25th December is in... 7 days!!! Shit! Again I am late. Those people were not crazy sending the cards when they did. They're thoughtful. But what does that make me?
There used to be a time when I sat down and wrote letters, birthday cards, Christmas and Easter cards, I sent the traditional spring tokens (Martisor) and generally kept up to date with correspondence and with friends who were farther than just one phonecall away.
I have to ask myself now if e-mail and online chats have actually ruined communication rather than improve it. Am I relying on the Internet as a safety net for situations like this, when I postpone traditional communication until it's too late? Is it a safety net, or a trap? Has it ruined, among other things, the Spirit of Christmas?
Christmas used to be about gathering families around a bountiful table, about going to church, about carols, about cathing up with friends and about sharing. Now it seems to be about glamour, about chasing gifts, about finding the easiest, fastest way to fulfil what has turned into a chore rather than a series of gestures aimed at making the people you care most about feel loved and remembered.
For years now, I have been criticising my mother for all the trouble she goes through to make every single Christmas or Easter special, unique, yet traditional. I just couldn't see the point of her spending days on end in the kitchen, preparing complicated and time consuming dishes and cakes (almost always the same ones). All this for some uncles and aunts who would just come over, sit their arses down and stuff their faces while she buzzes in and out of the kitchen bringing more and more in, doing the dishes and further exhausting herself to near death. The whole house would be decorated, the table lit by candles. Christmas carols would be playing in the background and sometimes my mother would even sing along herself. She would never eat until all the guests had gone. I kept asking myself why she (or indeed anyone) would do this at all. Where was the pleasure and enjoyment in slaving away on Christmas Day? I have been suspecting her of masochism all along.
But now I have to ask myself. If that is not what you're supposed to do at Christmas, what are you supposed to do? Buy ready-made food and watch TV? How would that make it Christmas in this case? Isn't my mother's way the right way? Has she finally won the battle of making me understand? (God knows she's been trying for 28 years!! I suppose it was about time...) Is this her legacy?
So again, I ask myself, have we all become too lazy to celebrate Christmas the way we used to? Is Christmas just for children who still believe in Santa? Is this what the constant rush of modern times has turned us into?
Techology and evolution is meant to make our lives easier, of course. But what if it has simplified our lives to the extent that it has bared us of feelings and deprived us of the simple things from which we used to derive the greatest joy before? Is comfort worth trading for in this case?

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