Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Guest Post - Why thinking ‘it doesn’t feel like Christmas’ is the true Christmas spirit by Marie Gameson - Blog Tour @annecater on @gilbster1000

It was relatively recently that I solved one little mystery about myself. There have been so many times over the last ten years that I have been in Boots and walked past face creams, nail scissors, emery boards, thinking “I need those”, but then walked out with a completely different purchase such as expensive Glucosamine Sulphate tablets. Each time I was puzzled: why was I so reluctant to buy the little things I needed? The answer, (I realise now), is that from my early teens through to my early forties, I never had to buy those things – because face creams, nail scissors, and emery boards were standard ‘Mum’ items in my Christmas stocking. Sadly, those days have gone. 

As you know, when you type something into most search engines, they will try and predict what you’re asking. In Google, all you have to type is “why doesn’t it fe…” and it will offer you “why doesn’t it feel like Christmas?” So that’s a clue to how many of us are a little angst-ridden about the subject. Christmas Stress Syndrome was formally identified in 1993 (what took them so long?), but hopefully most of us will survive into January without getting divorced or murdering a family member; we lucky ones just suffer from the less severe ‘it doesn’t feel like Christmas’ syndrome.

One of the reasons cited by many for ‘IDFLC’ is that Christmas is too commercial now, but sometimes you have to go somewhere that isn’t commercial to really appreciate the truth of that. A few years ago, in early December, a couple of friends rang to invite us to an Italian restaurant the following week. My partner and I said Yes, and it was only later in the conversation that we realized they actually meant a restaurant in Italy. So, shortly before Christmas we spent a few days in Ravenna. The air was crisp, the town gently lit, the shop window displays muted, and – in keeping with Italian tradition – it seemed that every church had its own unique take on the nativity scene. Despite none of us being Believers - we went on a crib crawl. We admired the nativity scenes made from paper, carved in wood, cork, every material it seemed. Though none beat the nativity scene composed entirely of potatoes – in which little Jesus was a baby spud. It did feel like Christmas. Contrast this with the experience of a friend in the UK who spent last Christmas with her sister’s family. Shortly after present-opening, my friend’s teenage niece brought her lap-top into the front room, and - very overtly - placed her unwanted gifts on eBay, and bid for the things that her non-telepathic parents should have bought her. Nice.

Going to the other extreme, if your family is lucky enough to have no money worries, there is also the burden of too many presents, as demonstrated by a lovely beagle puppy our family had. As it was her first Christmas, we’d all bought her presents. The first present that was opened for her (a chewy thing) was greeted with a huge amount of tail-wagging. The second present (a chewy thing) was also greeted with furious wagging, followed by a furrowed brow – the sign of a beagle thinking – and then she gently took the present in her mouth to the door and grunted to be let out into the garden. She quickly buried it and came back in time for her third present (a chewy thing), which she just grabbed without wagging and took straight to the door. We attended to some of our own presents whilst clods of earth were being kicked up above the flower beds. I don’t know if her fourth present was a chewy thing, as she snatched it and buried it before we had a chance to unwrap it, but I do remember that by the time we gave her the fifth present, the poor animal looked utterly haunted. None of the presents were ever exhumed, and may still lie in that Essex garden.

The trouble is that we (as adults) don’t have the same concept of time as children. Assuming they are in a stable family environment, for children, Christmas exists in a sort of circular time. If most adults are asked what they loved about Christmas when young, it is the annual family rituals that are recalled with fondness, the Christmas stockings rather than individual presents, trying to get one particular string of 1950s Christmas lights to work year after year, the set meals. (In my family’s case it was my father’s West Indian rum punch that was served after the morning’s present opening, so that we were all pretty blotto by lunchtime). For many, it is the only time of year that the house has a real heart, as the dressed tree usurps the TV to become the equivalent of the old fireplace. 

As we grow older we lose that sense of circular time – it becomes more spiral, as we remember Christmases past, and elderly relatives remind us that Christmases in the future will be weighted with loss. The family dynamics may change as newly widowed aunts or uncles are invited to join in, and have to get to grips with unfamiliar little rituals, such as who can gargle rum punch the longest without drowning. (OK – maybe that last one isn’t a feature of everyone’s Christmas). The sphere of our concern now expands beyond the immediate family setting, as we’re worried about an elderly neighbor who is on her own, and the fact that Great Aunt Dotty is sitting stony-faced through an Inspector Clouseau movie muttering that “everything’s so violent nowadays” when the rest of us are cackling over Cato’s “SAAAAAAAA!” as he leaps out of a cupboard to attack Clouseau.  In other words, the biggest change is that we now feel responsible for other people’s happiness.

So if it no longer feels like Christmas, it is probably a sign of being truly human – and rather grown-up. And we’re all in this together.

Marie Gameson

Marie is half of the mother and daughter writing team who published The Turtle Run as 'Marie Evelyn'. Her latest book, The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) was published by Salt this summer and is available on Amazon. You can find out more about her and her books at her website,

The Giddy Career of Mr Gadd (deceased) explores the painful themes of having to grieve for someone who is not yet dead, and trying to find one’s identity through an absent father.

Winifred Rigby follows a Zen‑like path of serenity and detachment, whilst leaving havoc in her wake. When Fred, a stranger haunted by poltergeist activity, contacts Winnie, he insists that stories she wrote as a teenager hold the key to his supernatural problems, and she is forced to renew acquaintance with her younger self.

Where will it all lead?

Follow along with the rest of this blog tour. 

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