What’s the first emotion that springs to mind when you hear the word Christmas? Excitement? Anticipation? Hunger? Or is it perhaps something more sinister like dread? Loathing? Stress?

It would appear that Christmas is becoming more and more stressful as the years go by. Nobody can really be sure whether it’s just a sign of getting older, the tighter belt on budgets or the disgustingly long queues in Primark when all you want to do is buy those microwavable slippers for your sister, but whatever the causes are, the symptoms are somewhat depressing.

Queue

There’s a Penny off at Primark… Rights; Martin Fisch

From about 16 years old and above, when Christmas rolls around, you can no longer get away with not buying your nearest and dearest something special. Prior to your teenage years, you resorted to drawings, chore coupons and big cuddles on Christmas morning and were chuffed when your mum was happy as Larry receiving them. However as the years go by, your part time job has brought in some funds and now your mum is expecting something a bit more extravagant than that “I love my mummy” drawing that still hangs above her bed. Now when you ask her, “What do you want for Christmas?”, she’ll shrug and “umm” and “ahh” before reeling off a list of 20 or so anti-ageing/pore reducing/hair volumizing creams and serums that she quite fancies trying. Now that you’re older, your favourite time of year has become less about the receiving and more about the giving.

Welcome to your first stressful Christmas.

When I was asking people’s opinions about the theme for this article, I got a lot of whinging and moaning about the lead up to Christmas. It starts too early, there are really long queues, my bags are too heavy. But I also got speaking to my seven year old cousin. When I asked her what Christmas meant to her, she promptly looked me in the eyes and told me the most beautiful story I’d ever heard from someone her age. “I always dream about Christmas,” she started. “There are lots of pretty lights and colours and snow, and I am a fairy who goes round making people’s wishes come true!”

She was so gleeful with the excitement of wanting to make people happy; it was so pure. The fact that there was no Father Christmas, no elves and even no Christmas tree in her dream makes it even more refreshing to hear a seven year old realise what the magic of Christmas is all about. It’s very easy to forget why everyone, not just Christians, celebrate Christmas these days. It’s nigh on impossible not to get caught up in the stress of late night shopping, running short on wrapping paper, getting enough food for 30 people, Christmas carollers at your door and trying to make that flamin’ mistletoe stick to the ceiling, so it’s difficult to take two steps backwards, breathe into a paper bag and look at Christmas from the outside. It’s actually not as sinister and scary as it feels.

It’s all about being together and spending time with your family for one whole day without anyone having to nip to the shop or take an important business call. It’s all about reminding yourself how good you’ve got it, and being thankful for the people who have helped mould you into who you are. It’s all about the food; this one day of the year when nobody cares how many roast potatoes or slices of turkey you have before that giant slab of fruitcake. It’s all about grounding yourself for long enough to regain your sanity. It’s all about you. It’s all about them. It’s all of this, all at the same time.

Happy Christmas!

This article was originally published in 2011. Header Image Rights; Simon and His Camera.