I sat down today, to write a Christmas gift list post for you, so you could be sure to ask Father Christmas for lots of lovely things this year. I have lots of ideas scribbled out in front of me, loads of great brands to introduce you to and festive gift ideas for even the most tricky of customers. But the words didn’t come. I couldn’t sum up the enthusiasm to write about the joys of the latest must-have gadget or the ‘this will change your life’ Lego set (seriously they get better every year!) and that’s because honestly, Christmas makes me feel a little uneasy.
And so here I am, six weeks-ish before the big day, writing something that I thought I would never share with anyone. I don’t know if it’s because I’m hitting my thirties and I just don’t care as much about what people think of me or if it’s just my time to open up but I’m going to level with you. The reason that Christmas makes me feel so uneasy is because Father Christmas, just like the words for my gift list, didn’t come.
I didn’t celebrate Christmas as a child. Ever. No family traditions, carols in church, stockings hung by the fireplace, mince pies left for Father Christmas or presents under the tree. In fact not even a tree.
I grew up as part of a religion that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. Or birthday’s. Or anything really aside from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It sounds strange but it was my normal. My home. My family. I didn’t grow up believing in Father Christmas. I had been told that he was a story, a lie, a myth that other families peddled to their deluded children. There was no magic or excitement. It was bad. It was wrong. God didn’t want us to celebrate. And so we didn’t.
And yet each and every 24th December (it wasn’t Christmas Eve for me, just another date on the calendar) I remember how I would sit at my bedroom window after lights went out and look up in the night sky hoping to catch a glimpse of the big man and his reindeer as he dropped presents off for all the other girls and boys. Every year I secretly hoped that he might leave just one thing for me and my sister. I wouldn’t have told anyone. It would have been our secret. Each year, I fell asleep wondering what it would be like to wake to a Christmas tree with a pile of brightly wrapped presents underneath for me. I even used to wish upon a star (far too much Pinnochio was watched in our house) that it might come true.
Needless to say we know how that story ends and in reality I wasn’t too surprised when there was nothing at the foot of my bed Christmas morning. Disappointed maybe. Fearful of how the other kids at school would mock me for having no presents again when regaling each other with lists of their finery. But surprised? Not really. I was used to it.
My first “proper” Christmas was when I turned eighteen, no longer in the clutches of said religion and I spent it with my boyfriend and his family, pretending that I was one of them. Pretending that I had celebrated Christmas with my family each of the seventeen years prior to that one too. I pretended to know what the etiquette was at midnight mass, that I knew why his Mum was stirring in pennies and other odd items to a Christmas cake mix, that I hadn’t spent hours wrapping and re-wrapping their presents because I had never wrapped one before and I even dutifully rolled my eyes as we all sat down to watch the Queen’s speech after the mother of all feasts, again pretending that “of course, my Mum makes us do this every year too.”
That was the first Christmas that I ever faked and I was terrified that I would be found out. A whole childhood of being laughed at and singled out as different will do that to you. I was afraid that everyone would know I was a Christmas fraud and more than anything I so badly just wanted to fit in. To be normal. That kind of thing sticks with you.
Since then, I’ve faked at least eleven more Christmases and although it gets a little easier each year, the festivities still feel a bit forced. Since having my own children I have fully embraced the whole Christmas season. In fact, I think my fakery pushes me to go a bit overboard with it all. I take painstaking care with the gift giving, developing our own family traditions, decorating of the house and the enforced high spirits. I want each and every Christmas for my kids to be so picture perfect. So special. I never want them to know the feeling of emptiness that can only come with a no-show from the big man and his elves. I’m proud of the fact that they don’t know that and that they won’t.
The space under the much-too-over-the-top Christmas tree is rammed full of perfectly decorated gifts from “Father Christmas”, the cupboards are stuffed full of the best food and drink and we party hard with Shaun’s family for two days solid. It’s a wonderful time and one I actually look forward to now. So yes, we do celebrate Christmas these days and as a result, my fakery is well-honed. Sometimes I even believe it for a little while.
But no matter how much joy I get from seeing the excitement on my kids faces come Christmas morning, I can never quite shake the feeling that I am either completely winging it or that I’m about to be discovered as a total festive fraud. That someone’s going to stand up and point a comically big finger at me and announce that I don’t belong here in the world of twinkling fairy lights, tinsel and one too many glasses of wine.
So why am I writing this now? Well, this year I don’t want to feel like a fraud. I want it to stop. I want to be honest and come clean with it. So I admit, I didn’t celebrate Christmas as a child and what is the season of good will for you was actually the season of shame and disappointment for me for most of my life. It’s a difficult time of year and one that is still very much under construction in my head and heart. I want to enjoy Christmas this year, free of the feeling that I’m faking it. So I’m just putting it out there. I’m a big festive fraud, I’m faking it on many levels and this year will be my first real and honest Christmas.
With that in mind then, going back to writing the all-important ‘bloggers Christmas gift guide’ is just not something I want to do. Sitting here, recommending the best gifts to buy this season or offering any tips at all as to how to enjoy yourselves at Christmas time just makes me feel like a big, fat fraud all over again. Because after all, what do I know about it? Father Christmas never came.