My family despised Christmas.
There were no decorations. No gifts. No special meals. No happy memories.
Aside from knowing that the rest of the world was having more fun than us (not something I would dare mention within earshot of my parents), Christmas Day was no different to any other day.
At least once, my parents sent anti-Christmas cards, condemning their friends’ misguided efforts to honour Jesus’ birth with a rebadged pagan festival.
Every year, as 25 December approached, criticism of Christmas flowed freely. Mum and Dad were scathing about children being encouraged to believe in Santa, about Christmas trees, about Christmas carols, about Christmas being a special day for families to spend time together, and even about Jesus being “the reason for the season”.
Being a child, I accepted and absorbed all of this negativity, subduing my disappointment over the lack of gifts and joy by reminding myself that celebrating Christmas made God angry.
So, when it was recently suggested to me that I’d be especially affected by ongoing family estrangement at this time of year, I laughed. “I don’t have any reason to see this time of year as special,” I joked.
But the person I was joking with was my psychologist. And she knows that people like me (i.e. Australians who are white AF) have Christmas in their DNA, no matter what their childhood looked like.
We can argue about whether the modern Christmas fantasy is the result of shared mythology or clever marketing, but whether we like it or not, we’re wired to crave connection with family members at this time of year, and when it’s impossible due to dysfunction or distance, we can’t help but be affected.
I loved making Christmas 2018 special for my children, and thoroughly enjoyed a bunch of happy moments with Susan and our surprisingly well-adjusted blended family, but my psych was right.
Even though I was raised to hate Christmas, and even though I don’t miss the estranged members of my family at all, it’s difficult not to miss my loving, functional, completely imaginary family at Christmas.
If the same is true for you, don’t forget to take a moment to grieve for the family you never had.
Keep it brief, though. There’s beer to drink.