For as many different countries there are in the world, there are that many different traditions in the celebration of Christmas. We have all heard about the amazing Christmas markets in Europe, but did you know about some of the other, less-known, traditions of the world? For instance, according to whychristmas.com, in Estonia, children put their socks on the window ledge during Advent, and every day until Christmas Eve, an elf comes and puts treats in it. That sounds like fun! Fireworks seem to be popular in many countries, (the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Brazil, for example), parades are held in Cuba and Georgia, processions are held in the Honduras, bonfires in Serbia . . . but whatever the country or culture, food and drink are most important! Oh, the gluhwein! I strongly recommend whychristmas.com for an interesting and interactive read about Christmas all over the world. This might be a fun activity to do over some hot chocolate and gingerbread persons with the little people in your life!
But within each country or culture, for as many different families or individuals there are, there are that many different ways, again, to celebrate (or not celebrate, or simply to approach) Christmas.
Social media tends to paint a picture of large family gatherings: the tree and house are decorated immaculately, love is in the air, romances bloom, the long-lost child returns home, the presents are perfectly wrapped and ribboned, the meal is spectacular, the best chocolates are being handed around, and there is laughter everywhere. But some part of me says this ‘Hallmark picture’ of social media is only true for a minority in the world.
What I do know, for sure, is that you have to do what is right for you. If you want to ‘go large’, go large. Those who want to minimize, minimize. Those who want to do nothing at all, do nothing at all.
But, let’s not attach any judgement to how anyone wants to celebrate (or not celebrate) Christmas; and let’s not get caught up in what social media tells us we should do. There are so many possible configurations to the Christmas season just as there are so many configurations in life. There might be large family gatherings or small family gatherings, lots of presents or no presents. There might just be a couple at home together, or a mother and daughter, or a single person. Or a couple of friends. Or a homeless person. Or a person in the hospital. Or a person in jail. Or a person in the last days of life.
And some years, you might go ‘big’, some years you might ‘go small ’, and some years, circumstances (emotions, life in general, family, finances) might be such that you just don’t want to go at all. No pressure. It is all okay. There is no right or wrong.
Whatever you choose to do, big or small or not at all, or if Christmas did not go as you planned, I beg you to keep perspective. As I used to tell my clients who might be experiencing addictions, homelessness, mental health, isolation, poverty, etc., Christmas is only one day of the year, so try not to make too big a deal of it in your mind. I can guarantee you, the sun will come up on Boxing Day. (I also reminded them to remember that what you see is sometimes not what is happening behind scenes – some of the most elaborate displays of Christmas in households can mask a lot of personal and family turmoil and strife.)
And just think what we learned from COVID during Christmas in 2020 when many of our plans went awry! Christmas definitely did not look as it normally would for most of us. We learned that we don’t need to be tied into one way to celebrate. Just because we have always done something one way, does not mean we always have to do it that way. We found that, yes, we might be lonely, but we can survive a meal by ourselves, or with just our partner, or over Zoom with family. In fact, I remember hearing about some people who breathed a sigh of relief that they did not have to go to the big family gathering. And the sun came up the next day – and we might even have learned a new tradition in the process!
So, this Christmas, you do what works for you - big, small, or not at all - and be true to yourself, with no judgement for others who do things differently - big, small, or not at all.