Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… It’s a lovely nostalgic image to hum to a lovely tune. But is that really how you remember Christmas? When you close your eyes and allow nostalgia to wash over you, what springs to mind from your childhood festivities? Maybe it’s hard to imagine a world before online shopping, streaming services, social media influencers and #FOMO.
Ghosts of Christmas Past
December started with the Advent Calendar, of course. What lay behind the glitter door to number 1? A picture! Nothing more, nothing less. It wasn’t until number 24 that you got a morsel of chocolate, but wasn’t it the best piece ever?
Dusty boxes appeared from storage filled with hand-made paperdecorations, re-used every single year; the deer, the crib, the traffic light baubles, the tangled tinsel and – speaking of tangled – the multicoloured fairy lights.
Felt tip pens went into a frenzy circling all the Christmas specials and movie premieres in the Radio Times. Everybody ate Quality Street. The countdown to the Christmas Number One was on. And all the gifts placed beneath the tree were wrapped in paper because gift bags just weren’t a thing.
The smell of mince pies, and gingerbread were the real deal, not a scented candle. Trivial Pursuit. The doorbell ringing, festive walks to build up an appetitite and people passing by to wish one another ‘Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.’
And, most importantly, everything labelled Christmassy, was only available at Christmas. It was an exciting, unifying time, because it was unlike the rest of the year. Although nothing has changed about how Christmas falls in the annual calendar, the hype seems to blow up earlier and earlier.
You want to take your kids to see Santa? You better book your grotto tickets in July! You don’t want to get ripped off? Well, be sure to shackle yourself to your screens for Black Friday deals! As Dubai-based mother of three, Katie, says: ‘This year, I was choosing a pumpkin for Halloween and got distracted by the Christmas wreaths on sale…already!’
’Tis The Season For…
Giving and sharing, ideally. But it’s more realistic to admit that it’s a season of spending. Christmas is cultural consumerism at its maximum. Since the 1840s, when marketers began to see Christmas as a prime opportunity to sell goods, the spirit of Christmas has steadily grown into one big money-making machine.
We all sing about it being the ‘most wonderful time of year’and it is… for those in certain industries. According to Forbes, retailers in America expect to make $1 trillion from Christmas sales, accounting for one quarter of their yearly profits.
So Why Do We Buy?
It’s easy to be blinded by the lights. Let’s face it, they’re very twinkly. Plus, giving presents gives many people joy. However, we need much less than we think to be happy. The things that truly enrich our lives aren’t actually things at all.
Can you question your purchases? And where you’re purchasing from? Were you enticed by that Black Friday sale? Are you buying gifts out of obligation? How many new toys does your child really need? Why aren’t you reusing last year’s tree decorations? Gifts can be a lovely token of showing love. But you don’t have to let this dominate Christmas. Less purchases will lead to less stress. Imagine that.
This year I’m dreaming of a nostalgic not a consumerist Christmas. After all, what better time to embrace the true spirit of Christmas and make memories, not mountains of future landfill. Here’s how…
Your Christmas tree is not a competition. It should be a collection of nostalgic souvenirs. Hang the scrappy decorations your kids made in nursery. Link paper chains together. Dust off the old baubles from years ago. Set a challenge – and a prize – for whoever can untangle the fairy lights.
Avoid standing in supermarkets feeling overwhelmed with choice Dig out some recipes and bake the goods, or choose the chocolates that remind you of childhood.
Play board games, together, around a table, not the screen version. If you don’t own any board games, there’s always Charades and plenty of ‘parlour’ games you can rope the whole family into playing with just paper and pen – and it saves having to read the instructions
Make a playlist of nostalgic Christmas Number One hits. Take a leaf out of Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s book and have a kitchen disco. Get the family excited about new songs being released over the next few weeks and choose your favourite to hit the top spot. All together now: ‘Last Christmas I gave your my heart…’
Come All Ye Faithful
Tell your friends to pop over and visit. Give time frames of when you’ll be in, but don’t over-arrange. Allow them to call in for a festive hug, even if they can only stay for half an hour. Welcome humanity into your home.
Sing, sing, sing-along. Around the table. Door to door. In the garden. Maybe you can gather a collection at an informal carol concert and give the proceeds to charity.
Watch your favourite films and TV shows. According to psychologist Neel Burton, familiarity makes us feel good as we reminisce and escape. ‘Nostalgia can lend us much-needed context, perspective and direction, reminding and reassuring us that our life is not as banal as it may seem,’ he says. ‘It also tells us that there have been, and once again will be, meaningful moments and experiences.’ So what will it be this year – Home Alone, Die Hard, Friends or Elf?