Christmas Cheer

I had dinner with Boss and Cherub and their parents the other weekend and B&C’s Mum asked what we were doing on Christmas day. They, of course, have a host of family lunches and dinners to get to, which will involve much driving from one place to another place. We have organised Christmas lunch (which will undoubtedly roll into dinner then late into the evening) with a few other non-British couples who all just happen to be childless. B&C’s Mum laughed and said, “So, all the childless Christmas cynics are celebrating Christmas together!”

I related the above story to a workmate and she said, “You? No! Oanh is not a cynic!” and then wandered back to her desk, leaving me at the photocopier pondering the comment she had just made.

I have changed. I used to be such a Christmas grump.

In Australia, I did not exactly hate Christmas, it was just a very meh, over-hyped, over-commercialised occasion that had lost any meaning that I could glean.

Over time, I have removed myself from popular consumerist culture: no women’s magazines, no TV; very few newspapers (I read my news online with ads turned off). Interestingly, now that I cycle to work (and most other places too), I don’t even see much poster advertising, so I really am removed from popular culture – except for blogging (which, in its own way, is very much a guage of popular culture).

Christmas is no pressure for me: my partner and I don’t get each other Christmas presents; my family are far away and, anyway, I am exempt from my sister’s organised (not very) Secret Santa draw as the rules are (1) only the kids get presents and (2) you have to buy for the number of kids you have; my partner’s family are far away; and we have very few friends over here.

So Christmas can be whatever I want it to be. I can take all that joy and excitement and direct it whither I will. Everyone else’s excitement – for whatever reason and whatever Christmas means to them (if it’s religious, great; if it’s because you’re hanging out for that bang-up fabulous gift, good for you; if you like roast turkey and trimmings, cool; or, oddly, ‘piggies in blankets’ (ugh), you are weird but that’s your business, not mine) – it’s infectious. I’m infected.

When I cycle home, the Christmas lights in people’s front windows are warm and inviting (‘though I don’t think they’d be much pleased if a bedraggled, cold and wet cyclist rocked up, despite the abundant seasonal cheer I have).

I grocery-shopped, dreading Christmas tunes. Instead, as I was standing in line, I heard someone singing off-key:

Rudolf the dum da dumdaaar
Had a very la la laaaaa
And if you blah-ba ba baaaaa
Dum dee dumdee dum dee DAAAAA.
DUM dee blah-blah Christmas EEEEVE
Dumdee dum la SAY
Rudolf with your hmmm so daaar
Won’t you dee hmmm dee DAAAAA

Bemused, I turned around to see the shopping basket collector half-singing, half-mumbling, mostly mangling the song, but grinning and ever-so happy. Did she really not know the lyrics? How lovely. Instead of saying sorry when she bumped into people or excuse me when she had to get past them, she would cry out, “Merry Christmas!” at the top of her lungs and then keep singing her version of Rudolf. I’m sure she must have annoyed some people but it’s quite difficult to stay annoyed at someone so blithely good-natured. She really did like Christmas.

The tall guy behind me in the queue got this wild-eyed look on his face when she ‘Merry Christmas’ed him and I whispered at him, “You just have to say Merry Christmas back and then she’ll leave you alone.” He muttered, “Merry Christmas” and she beamed at him. Slowly, the corners of his mouth twitched upwards into a smile. I winked at her and she winked back, though I did not get a Merry Christmas. Possibly she knew who needed cheering up so saved her hearty enthusiasm for them. Me? I’d been grinning ever since I’d first heard her off-key, off-kilter Rudolf.

(As an aside, I like winking. Do you like winking? Why is it not more widespread?)

I’ve even been writing cards, making origami wreaths and thinking about making truffles to give to workmates for Christmas.

Also, I am hoping that it will snow. Despite the low probability of this occurring, I’m optimistic. And I will remain optimistic until all hope is gone (it’s just the sort of girl I am).  By then I’ll also be busy making the trimmings for a Christmas lunch with the Childless Cynics (sounds like a good band name to me), enjoying mulled wine (or apple juice, if you’re me, which you’re not because I’m me and you’re you) and probably talking and laughing. A lot of each, thereof.

Yep, I’m totally infected. Watch out – it’s contagious.

Pine trees covered in snow. Obviously Christmas trees. (Photo from somewhere-in-Germany, March 2008)



  1. I love your little short stories, Oanh. That cheerful mangler of songs reminds me of Straight No Chaser’s 12 Days of Christmas — sort of an amalgam of the carols. Go here and watch them perform.

    I feel the same way as you do about the (non)influence of seasonal hype and advertising. I’m a bit of a media hermit and also get my news online sans ads. It’s busy and hectic enough without the added pressure of hype and noise.


  2. unbalanced reaction

    I can understand that but equally, when it’s said with good will, I do not think too much should be made of it.

    Aus is slightly more similar to USA in being careful about making the celebration as non-denominal as possible, except neither Happy Holidays nor Season’s Greetings really work, because, unlike USA, it’s not holiday season and, unlike the northern hemisphere, it’s not a special season!

    UK, however, is often quite oblivious to political correctness. Though I am not bothered by Merry Christmas, other UK language strikes me as archaic and upsetting, e.g. Mrs/Miss (and Ms = divorced) or The Disabled.


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