When I was young, in a family of five, Christmas involved the usual big tree, tons of gifts, two Yorkies digging in the gift pile to find theirs.
My presents would be a mixture of new things from Dad and Mom, things that one of my brothers would steal from my room, repurposed gifts from my sister, and random age-inappropriate stuff from my other brothers.
Even though I don’t remember believing in Santa, Christmas for me felt great, because my dad wasn’t traveling, and we were all together. I was too young to feel any of the undercurrents my much older brothers and sisters talked about later in life.
My favorite part was that on the morning of the 25th, my Dad and I would get up super early and watch cartoons together, which were all Christmas themed. I was around five when I was first allowed to drink a coffee with him on one of those mornings. Well, mostly it was hot milk.
But then there came a time in life, where Christmas didn’t have that glow. And it wasn’t the gifts or the lack of family gatherings, even though by then certainly that all had gone. It was mainly loneliness that took over and even envy when I saw other people’s Christmas celebrations. At the age of 16, I spent the first Christmas by myself and there would be many to follow. Tragedies started to happen, all strangely timed just weeks or a few months before Christmas when I was around 18. Christmas feeling was overshadowed by fights, family illnesses and deaths in the family for decades. And so, I gave up on Christmas.
I wouldn’t say that I was a Scrooge, but it was tough to get in the Christmas spirit when come November usually something happened that had a lasting effect on happiness, long after Christmas had come and gone.
On one occasion, on that very special day my father and I shared, years after he and my mom both had passed away my house burned down. As I was standing outside with my work colleague and cohabitant, watching the flames, I made a vow to myself that this was the last crappy Christmas that I was going to accept.
I forgot about my vow as the new year grew upon me, but when Christmas time came around, the lack of decorations brought back memories of the fire and my promise to myself.
Full of newfound energy I went out to buy a ridiculous amount of Christmas ornaments and decorations and roped my flat mates in to the mission and to make our house the most Christmassy of them all. To be fair with a bit of eggnog and other alcoholic beverages they were convinced quite easily, and we managed to make everything sparkle. We didn’t stop at the visuals. We played Christmas music constantly for at least a week and put small gifts under the tree. We sat together and watched movies and for the first time in probably over 20 years it actually felt like Christmas again – even if I wasn’t sharing it with the people that got me to love Christmas in the first place.
Getting that Christmas feeling back was more than just the holiday spirit. It was about getting some agency about over what happens during those days. It was saying: I’m not letting anything that happens to me destroy those cinnamon-cookie-moments of happiness that I painstakingly carved out for myself.
So, ever since then, I start decorating my home bit by bit. On 1 December first a candle will go up and every day from that point on something new gets unpacked from the stacks of boxes downstairs until the 24th. I buy my tree early and leave it up till the new year.
Over the years most of my brothers and sisters have moved closer to where I live, and we try to spend part of Christmas together. But regardless of who I spend Christmas with and where I spend it, there’s one tradition that I now never miss out on.
I get up at 5 AM in the morning on Christmas morning the 25th, I make myself a coffee with lots of milk and all the bells and whistles that my dad used to put on it. Then I plonk myself on a comfy chair and watch my favorite Christmas movie. And potentially more than one. I think of all the people I lost and how I wish they were there with me, but I try to imagine that they are watching the movie with me, some of them complaining about my choices.
This year my most recent loss is my faithful dog, Douglas, that has been with me for the past 16 years and I don’t know how to get through it without him. He loved Christmas as much as I did, because it meant we got to spend so much time together to cuddle. I will try to honor him this Christmas as I keep the tradition of that one morning alive.
Technology entrepreneur and game producer. Rosy concentrates on working in social and environmental change and philanthropic projects. She uses her ‘techspertise’ to produce content she is passionate about, focusing on impact messaging in entertainment and gaming. She regularly blogs and writes screenplays. She is an investor and mentors young entrepreneurs. More info on: www.lokhorst.ch