From Chaos to Cheer
Whilst most people love the holiday season, what if the thought of it makes you enervated rather than energised? Kali Anthony talks about how to get through the festivities, and turn chaos into cheer.
I have to confess, I’m a bit of a Christmas Grinch. It hasn’t always been thus. Once I used to enjoy Christmas; spending time buying presents, decorating the tree and being a right little elf. But somewhere along the way, it all got to be too much. First of all, there’s the heat and humidity where I live in the subtropics. Try 35C/95F and eighty-percent humidity—ugh. Then travelling all day spending time with different families, the excess of presents and consumerism, the waste of food and all the insane effort for a few brief hours. Add to that my socially reclusive little soul and instead of anticipating Christmas, I began dreading it.
The situation became acute after my mum and then my dad, died. Even though I had kids of my own and people told me I should be happy for Christmas, my children’s joy should be enough (note: sometimes it isn’t), I couldn’t muster up any enthusiasm. The whole Christmas caper fell kind of flat. I didn’t even get a tree. And it all sapped every bit of living energy out of me. With a lack of energy, comes a lack of will to write. For me, the December holiday season has traditionally been a poor time creatively.
So what to do? It's well-known that preparations for big celebrations like Christmas are stressful, and that the "emotional labour" of it all can instill a sense of dread in the hardiest of hearts. In the past, it has for me. This year, I decided to pull myself out of my funk and try to muster up a bit of Christmas cheer. For those of you like me who find this time of the year difficult, I have a few easy, no fuss suggestions to reduce the pressure, which might get you up and cracking Christmas crackers—or whatever your tradition.
“What’ll get me in the Christmas mood?” I asked. “Christmas Kitsch!” was the answer. This year I succumbed to the kids’ pleas to raid the local dollar store because their friends at school were wearing silly Christmas hats. So off we went, and I bought my own (hence the new profile pic). Of course, this has led me to purchase silly Christmas head gear for the rest of the family (they don’t know it yet—shhh, it’s a surprise).
But that’s not all folks! Anyone want a trio of festive meerkats? Shortbread in a snowman tin? Crazy Christmas earrings? I have it all, plus a nice little hat box to keep it all safe for next year because I’m all about re-cycling.
And you know what? It’s worked. It’s all so ridiculous, it kind of makes me feel happy just seeing Christmas silliness about the place. Plus, my earrings have bells on and I’m going to wear them every night now till Boxing Day… Jingle Bells indeed. I’m my own Christmas carol! Tinkle, Tinkle.
Deck the halls
The past few years, there’s been little Christmas decorating going on in our house. The problem has been that we don’t really have room for a decent tree and without a tree, it’s hasn’t felt much like
Christmas. So what to do?
I’ve never gone down the real tree track, because in our hot summers you usually end up with a mess of fallen pine needles and stinky water after about a week, and that’s not at all nice. But the kids really wanted a tree this year so I toddled of to the local dollar store again and purchased a teensy, tiny, fifty-centimetre plastic one. As a bonus, it was already decorated. Popped it on the occasional table, added a few more bits and bobs and a star, stuck a reindeer in front of it and... Voila! Festive in under five minutes.
On the mantelpiece over our superfluous fireplace—32C/95F temperatures, remember?—I dusted off the angel and the Santa Claus that I’d left up there since my last Christmas effort—sigh, my family really does think I’m hilarious, I promise—added another reindeer, a few Christmas stockings, and we’re now set!
I have a confession to make. I have a thing for reindeer. The lounge room now has five…
Light me up
Okay, remember when I said I was a Christmas Grinch? Well, my grinchy-ness (is that even a word?) does not extend to Christmas lights. I have been known to *squee* when I see them in someone’s yard and I decorated our garden once till the twenty metres of lights tangled, then I tried to untangle them, they broke and then I cried.
But never fear! This year my lights are battery operated and inside the house. Nary a tangle to be seen. And lighting them up every night makes me smile.
Christmas Food Before Christmas Day
Another thing that has always spoken “Christmas” to me is plum pudding. Yes, even in the scorching heat, plum pudding and custard is a must. Of course, it’s a few weeks before Christmas as I write this and I’m craving pudding already, so what to do? At the local Aldi (I love Aldi, can do my food shopping and buy an 80 cm plastic, articulated human skeleton model all at the same time) I found teeny, tiny individual plum puddings. Bought some, made custard all for myself because the rest of the family hate plum pud, and gobbled it down. Family thought I was odd, but it felt awfully Christmas-y. Really got me in the festive mood.
I almost broke out into carols.
And Christmas pudding doesn’t have to be hard. Given my obsession with it I’m in charge of supplying the extended family with some, yet again. No slaving away in my furnace of a kitchen in the Summer’s heat. This year, like last year, I bought a pre-made pudding with fruit and gold glitter from the local store—did I mention Aldi before? Five minutes in the microwave, sprinkle on the gold dust and we’re done!
What else speaks Christmas food? Mangos and cherries. Now my fruit bowl is full of those and I’m eating my way to Christmas cheer one piece of fruit at a time. What a way to go.
You know what? If you don’t want to celebrate the holidays because you’re sad/had a bereavement/had a relationship breakdown/can’t be bothered, then go for it I say. See, this advice is like writing advice. Do whatever works for you, and if that means building a blanket fort and hiding, then please do that. It's okay, really. I've done it myself.
So rather than bemoaning the holidays this year, I might actually be in the mood. Guess what? I’m even reading my first Christmas anthology which is unheard of. And rather than my writing going into hibernation, I’m tapping gleefully away on the keyboard with a funny hat on my head and Christmas earrings jingling all the way. And who knows?
With all this cheer I might even write my own Christmas story one day…
Kali Anthony is an aspiring writer and editor for The Pink Heart Society. Follow Kali on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Do you enjoy the holidays or are you a classified Grinch? What do you do to get yourself in the festive mood? Let us know here or on social media using the hashtag #ChaosorCheer We’d love to hear from you!