Christmas has come and gone, and the good news is, we survived the festivities reasonably unscathed. No family dramas, no meltdowns, the house didn’t burn down. Plenty of reasons to rejoice in other words.
I did have a spot of pre-Christmas blues on December 23rd, fretting that this year’s celebrations weren’t going to be as I’d hoped. If there’s one time of the year I feel a sentimental affinity to my Swedish nationality and the family traditions I grew up with, it’s at Christmas. For Swedes, the primary day of celebration is Christmas Eve. That is the day children wake up to find stockings filled with goodies, that’s the day Santa visits, presents are exchanged, and everyone gets drunk on food, wine and ‘julmust’ (a sweet, root-beer like soft drink that is a must-have for every Swedish family at Christmas). Christmas Day, for us, is the day you recover from all the excess. Not so for my British husband though, for whom Christmas Day is all-important.
Sensing the slight tension between her parents, our younger daughter saw an opportunity:
“Can’t we have stockings both days?”
I think she was hoping for a Groundhog Day kind of Christmas, one that starts anew every day.
In the end, we did two big Christmas celebrations, a Swedish one on the 24th followed by the English the next day, and by Boxing Day even the children were exhausted.
As good as it was, I’m relieved to see the back of Yuletide, and I’m looking forward to next week when the children go back to school and life returns to normal.
But first, there’s New Year’s Eve. You’d think that a night owl like me would relish the excuse to stay up past midnight, but for as long as I can remember I’ve struggled to stay awake past ten o’clock on the 31st of December. Perhaps it’s got something to do with the fact that my internal new year’s clock is set to commence not on 1st January but at the end of summer when the new school year starts. That for me is the time for renewed energy (post summer holiday), fresh opportunities and, of course, new pens.
The problem I have with New Year’s Eve is the false optimism and excitement that it demands. You’re expected to celebrate, be merry and have a great time. But what is there to celebrate?
On a personal level 2017 was a good year for me I admit, but from a broader perspective, it was in many ways a pretty awful year: Brexit, Donald Trump, global warming, starving polar bears, violence, xenophobia, racism, sexism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, need I say more? And there’s no reason to believe that 2018 will be much different.
“Everything changes and nothing changes.” That, says Tom Hazard, the centuries-old protagonist of Matt Haig’s novel, How To Stop Time, is the lesson of time. And he should know, having lived through a succession of world wars, revolutions, uprisings, plagues, witch hunts, the advent of Facebook and more.
“This is the chief comfort of being four hundred and thirty-nine years old. You understand quite completely that the main lesson of history is: humans don’t learn from history.”
If that sounds overly depressing, there’s a more upbeat message to be had from Haig’s book: the importance of living in the present.
“…the thing is: you cannot know the future. You look at the news and it looks terrifying. But you can never be sure. That is the whole thing with the future. You don’t know. At some point you have to accept that you don’t know. You have to stop flicking ahead and just concentrate on the page you are on.”
Happy New Year everyone!