exciting, informative, snarky, and very likely fabricated tales of life as an american expat in london

everybody’s hoping next year’s gonna be the one

by Jen at 11:49 pm on 7.12.2008 | 3 Comments
filed under: holidaze, mutterings and musings

with only 18 days to go, i’m having a hard time getting into the christmas spirit.

i’ve written in years past how my mum set quite a high bar when it came to celebrating.  when i was recently home visiting, my brother brought out a bunch of pictures from when we were kids.  year after year, through different decades and different haircuts, in front of different trees opening different presents, those pictures reflected a special kind of happiness that christmas brought.  in many ways, the christmases of my childhood were pretty idyllic. and even well into my twenties, christmas still had that patina of wonder.  pine scented, glowing, moving.  with my birthday falling on christmas, that importance was multiplied.

which is why it’s so dispiriting that in recent years, it’s been so difficult for me to enjoy. it started with my move over here, and seems to get worse with each season.  it gets harder and harder to immerse myself in the cheer, to allow myself to get caught up in the festive mood.

a large part of it has to do with the fact that the deep sense of peace and joy that the holiday used to bring me, has been lost since i suddenly found myself an atheist.  whatever connection i felt with a greater universal energy was abruptly severed a few years ago, and i no longer get that stirring emotional response to the spiritual chords of the season.  i still enjoy the traditions and themes of christmas, but not with the intensity and inner reverence i used to feel.  i miss that.  without it, the tree and gifts and food all feel rather more shallow.  and no matter how i try, i can’t shake that surface tension.  at times, i feel a bit numb to it all – then sad for the numbness.  but the more i try to fake it, the paler it all seems, and the bright images fade like old photographs.

it doesn’t help that jonno never really celebrated christmas much as a kid, so my attempts to recapture the enthusiasm i used to feel are mostly lost on him.  i try to get him to participate in the things that are important to me like trimming the tree, or playing christmas music – and he’ll take part trying to humour me, but i find myself continually disappointed because i know in my heart that he’s just mimicking what i want to see.  i want it to *mean* something to him, because it means something to me.  and the fact that it doesn’t isn’t his fault, or due to any lack of trying on his part.  but it’s disheartening nonetheless, because it never really satisfies – i want depth and poignancy and schmaltzy sentimentality.  and instead we go through the motions, with me desperately hoping that if it looks right, maybe it will start to feel right.

and then there’s the expat factor.  while the uk loves christmas, none of their traditions really resonate with me.  i don’t care much about the queen’s speech, or the christmas number one, or going to the pub on christmas eve.  i don’t care much about christmas crackers and yorkshire puddings, and if i hear slade or the pogues one more time, i’ll go mad.  all the things that used to get me in the spirit are missing here.  charlie brown specials and candy canes and bing crosby and santa shaped sugar cookies and snow and garlands of cranberries are all missing.  i know it sounds trivial, but these things trigger something inside.  because even if i can no longer feel any connection to the spiritual, i still have a wellspring of memories to draw from – yet when nothing is the same, you can’t just tap into that on demand.

all of which adds up to a big giant “meh” so far this year.

i long for that feeling of joy and wonder again.  yet i’ve learned through experience that you can’t manufacture it through carols or tinsel.  so in deciding to go to morocco this year, where christmas isn’t even largely celebrated, i guess i’m giving myself permission to let go of expectation, to stop trying.  perhaps in the future, that feeling will return.  or maybe the holiday will become something new and different for me.

i don’t know.  i just know that as hard as it is to let go of something that was once so important to me, it’s harder still to let it become diminished by trying to cling to the past.

departure lounge – christmas downer

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  • 1

    Comment by Charlotte

    8.12.2008 @ 14:15 pm

    I understand your Christmas “meh”. What you say about being an expat resonates too, although I have exchanged barbeques and swimming for the land that invented Christmas, so I am quite lucky.

    For me, it’s about being with special people. This year I’m excited since I have my Mum with me, but other years it’s been bigtime meh.

  • 2

    Comment by Nicola

    15.12.2008 @ 20:28 pm

    I was the same, but it soon changed once i had my beautiful girls. i am so so excited to see them open presents, Jaz helped me decorate the tree and ben helped too, there are 10 balls on one branch but it doesnt matter as Jaz did it. We went to Carols in the park the other night and Jaz danced away and sang and was so excited. We went to her Christmas party last night and she was on stage with her little buddies singing “where is santa” just amazing. I love Christmas again and i know it will only get better as my girls grow. And it helps that i am flying into NZ (my mums) on Christmas day… Merry Christmas Jen xox

  • 3

    Comment by Nicola

    15.12.2008 @ 20:30 pm

    Morocco is awesome too, totally jealous! xx

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