I was always sceptical about Christmas – not because of the consumer nature of it, as who doesn’t enjoy giving/receiving presents? But because I always saw it as forced family time that we could easily spend together at any other given time of the year. I always hated the rehearsed feeling of Christmas; by rehearsed I mean that there is the same tradition that NEEDS to be followed year in and year out. Growing up in a Polish Christian community made our Christmas differ even more to the Americanised traditions of waking up and finding loads of presents under the decorated Christmas tree. Instead, we’d celebrate on Christmas Eve – celebrating Jesus’ birth – and open our presents at midnight. Thankfully, my family is not religious and we see Christmas as more of a traditional family event, rather than celebrating the birth of the big religious man.
This year I expected nothing new from Christmas, we were going to sit down for a meal, awkwardly eat soup, then other traditional dishes (that are exactly the same every year) and then eat dessert and open presents. Weirdly, though, this year, despite my scepticism and un-amused attitude, Christmas finally (after my looong 18 years of life) felt like, I always imagined, Christmas is supposed to feel. When we sat down for dinner, I grabbed my spoon and as I, almost, begun eating my grandfather, unusually, said that he would like to say something serious – yes, serious. We all looked confused but all listened.
He talked about how important it was, for him and my grandma, to spend Christmas with us all – it was the first Christmas, since we moved to England ages ago, that was fully spent in our closest family environment – and how we all should notice that it is my new cousin’s first Christmas ever. The whole speech was quite emotional, and my grandma shed a few tears, and honestly, I was holding back mine also. He reminded us to remember those who we also lost this year; he was talking about my great grandma, who passed away two days before we left to go to my dream trip to Morocco last summer.
After the speech, and a bit of silence, everybody seemed to relax a little, and forget about the mundane Christmas routine and enjoyed one another’s company. Everybody put their phones away, even my grandma, joked, laughed and posed for photos together. There was no stress, no judging and no criticising. The dim candlelight atmosphere finally corresponded to the warmth of a true family atmosphere, which is something that our family missed out on for a few years.
Maybe it was the fact that for once, we got to spend purely a family Christmas; we spent it with people who I wanted to spend Christmas with, not other people who did not feel like family. Or maybe it was the fact that, although I remained the sceptical me at Christmas time, I actually let myself to value the time with family that I do get, no matter how irritating they might be.
Maybe it really was due to the loss of my great grandmother; it was mainly because when I came home, after a sleepover, I hugged my grandma and had to hold back my tears really really hard, as I was hugging her, she was crying. I never saw my grandma cry and I feel like that small moment taught me something that I would still be pretty unaware of, which is that spending time with family is important, as you never know when they will be gone, forever, and there will be nothing that you can do about it. Regret and grief will consume you for a long long time, as you will wish that you showed them you cared about them more; just because you love does not mean that they feel like they were loved, and that’s what I want to avoid. The feeling of regret, one day, that I did not show people who are important to me that they are really important.
This Christmas, maybe, did not change my ‘teenage’ attitude towards the day itself – but made me realise that you cannot live your life, forever trying to hide away from your family, but you need to embrace where you come from; the sooner you stop being embarrassed of your family, the more time you have to spend good time together, without feeling like ‘family time’ is just for show, as the best Christmas I’ve spent so far, was far away from showing off. It was just our family, without feeling the need to act like a normal family. Because that’s what ours is definitely NOT.
Hope your Christmas was also as ‘magical’ as mine 😉