A Christmas Carol

Christmas is around the corner with all its awkward traps and disappointments. The holiday might be most magical, when you are a child, but rapidly turns into a big ball of obligations, as soon as you are old enough to make personal decisions. As a kid, December used to be my favorite time. When we went to the countryside to see my grandparents and sometimes the snow-walls even reached above my head.

I hocked up with the neighbors grandchild, we went ice skating on the frozen mountain lake, skiing and sledding, had snowball fights and returned home with ice cold fingers and toes. Back at home, my mum read Christmas-stories to me. We went window-shopping as soon as all the Christmas decorations where up and backed cookies. Christmas day consisted of intense anticipation. I used the hour at the cold church to imagine, what I might find under the tree. Christmas was magical. It was connected to the smell of cookies, punch and fir needles. Candles tinted the room in a warm and cozy light, while snowflakes danced in front of the windows. The years went by and the mystical glance was replaced by annual fights between me and my dad, mostly over the tangled holiday lights for the tree. I refused to go to church, which brought me into trouble with my mum. And after I moved out, I was introduced to the art of juggling work, the visit at the parents and still be able to get drunk with friends afterwards. The Christmas dinner changed from salmon to vegetarian to vegan. The presents changed from Lego and My little Pony to toasters, pans and socks. (I’m always happy about new socks. Somehow I can’t keep my socks together. If you ever hear socks make a bad present, reconsider! Socks are great!) In short, everything changed. But there are some main problems you have to encounter on Christmas time, when you are a grown up.

One of them is the tree-question. A Christmas tree is a pretty thing that really helps to bring on the festive mood. In a desperate try to retrieve some of the childhood Christmas spirit, I decided to get a tree. But without having a car, it’s impossible to get an organic homegrown tree from the Bavarian woods, which would be the right thing to do. The tree-graveyards that are located all over the city during December, are an incredibly sad sight. Hundreds and hundreds of cut down trees, waiting to be dragged into tiny apartments, where they slowly die in their tree stands, covered in tinsel. Of course, tree farms make a meaningful contribution to our CO2 content, but… . However, I don’t have the heart to buy one of  those trees. It had to be a tree in a pot. The most uneven one, of course. Despite the prognoses of Christmas-tree experts, all of my pot-trees survived and where happily relocated behind my grandmas’ house. All five of them. Just in time when I was about to buy tree number 6, my grandma called me and made it very clear, that she would not accept another fin in her garden. They grow tall and mighty. They cast a dark shadow over her house. She feels threatened by my army of Christmas trees. That put an end to my efforts to keep the holiday spirit high.

Another big question is: How to spend the holidays? I’m not particularly wild about family dinners and holiday preparations with the parents. But luckily all of my otherwise unsatisfying jobs had one thing on common: I was able to work on Christmas. And that meant I could keep the family time short and had a very good excuse. I realized, the less time I spent at my parents’ home, the less we fought. But then came the time, when I wanted to spend Christmas day at home with my boyfriend. My parents took it surprisingly well. Almost too well, in retrospective. And suddenly a whole new set of problems emerged. We were responsible for Christmas dinner. Working on Christmas day is not so great anymore, if you actually try to be perfectly festive in your own home, without time to clean up beforehand or go shopping. The pressure is on. And with it comes the skepticism. My boyfriend and I are not religious in the slightest way. But that does not mean we don’t appreciate creatively wrapped presents, elaborate menus and twinkling kitsch. Christmas is a colorful and welcome break in the otherwise dark and cold time. But in fact, it’s not cold anymore and white Christmas became a myth. Snow in December must have stopped sometime between the fall of the Berlin wall and the beginning of the Merkel Era. And does celebrating Christmas really have a purpose, if you don’t feel spiritually connected? Is it worth all the stress? Why don’t we celebrate Hanukkah or Diwali? Are we really culturally obliged to Christmas, just because we grew up in this white western society?

The answer is, of course, simple. We have been indoctrinated with the idea since we were little and it became a part of us. Not celebrating it at all feels sad. It’s not the set of ideas behind the holiday or its spiritual meaning. It’s also not the cultural tradition. It’s our personal connection, which makes it important for us – and of course, it’s also a legal holiday. That’s enough reason to put the Spotify-Christmas playlist on and start cleaning the kitchen on the last warm and sunny December Sunday before Christmas. For the love of tinsel! And the love of celebrations, whatever they might be for.