Zahra Shahtahmasebi

13 December, 2016

(THE TV’s LEAKING) It’s hard to escape it, you realise, as it settles down over the world like a big thick blanket. Creeping up from beneath the earth, no one noticing until it was there, its shadow looming over you, the sound of chiming bells as it descends. It’s that time of year again, the carols will play over and over again incessantly until you feel yourself going mad, decorations on every inch of free space anywhere, santa hats bobbing in amongst the usual caps and beanies.

Christmas.

The credits card will flash, bank accounts will empty, wrapped presents will pile up under trees, tensions will flare, and a lot of food will be eaten. For at least a good month, the world will descend into a semi-sort of chaos, that seems to vanish as quickly as it appeared. Some people have a tense sort of hatred for the holiday, dreading the moment the decorations appear as if by magic in the stores, dreading the days the radio won’t stop blaring that godforsaken tune about that red nosed reindeer.

The main reason behind that is the commercialism that threatens to overtake Christmas, with its extravagance and the forking out of the big bucks for presents that, lets face it, no one will actually use.

But, the thing is, Christmas is so much more than the materialistic holiday it is presented to be. Unfortunately, I believe Christmas gets a bad rap, with it being hailed as a waste of time, money and effort. I for one have always loved Christmas. And I still do. It is a massive part of my life and is probably my most favourite holiday (probably equal with my birthday, because I mean c’mon who doesn’t love a holiday all about them?!). As cheesy as it sounds Christmas is a time for giving, for sharing light, love, kindness and of course food.

I love it not for the presents, but because of what it means to me. Christmas for me has always first and foremost been about family. Moving right across the world at a young age, and coming from a diverse background, meant that in our new habitat, my immediate family was all we had. Aunties, uncles and cousins we have plenty of but only if they weren’t scattered in various regions of the globe.

It was just us. There would be no going to visit our grandparents on Christmas day, or having Christmas lunch with our cousins. Just us.

But looking back on all the Christmases we’ve had over the years, they are always some of the best days of my life. It was a day that we all made an effort to be together, even when my siblings grew older and started moving away, they always made it back for Christmas. It came as shock the first time two of them was unable to, both stranded together across the ditch in Australia, but we always had Skype and at least they had each other, so we made do with that. This year will be another quiet Christmas, missing two siblings again, but new additions to the family means a spot will be filled, but by no means replaced.

A quieter Christmas in some ways, but of course no less fun and no less happy and joyful, because for that one day, those of my family that are here, will be together. There will be no stress, worrying about work, or errands or the gardening, or the bills that need to be paid. There will be just us, waking up early to have a cup of tea, a stroll down to the reserve, the lovely brunch we always have.

The endless TV marathons, some boards games, plenty of chocolates. Probably a kick around or two at the neighbour park, then scrambling back home for the roast turkey that awaits.

Lame Christmas cracker jokes that we all bemoan but still laugh at, bubbly drinks that fizz in our noses, the classic family photo. Then we all groan about over eating, but are still eager for dessert, trifle, pudding, mince pies, shortbread, then more groaning as we stumble to the lounge to flop down and rest ourselves. More board games, a cup of tea, a movie, the lovely sunshine that shone all day now slowly dipping down beyond the horizon to pull the blanket of night over the day that seems to last forever.

And how I always wished it did, or maybe not forever, but just a little bit longer. To bask in the warmth, the laughter, the closeness we all feel on that day. The joy of just being in each other’s presence for those few hours, of having everyone’s undivided attention. Of sharing the love.

So give a little more this Christmas and remember that it doesn’t have to be this glorified extravagant over-commercialised facade. If anything, Christmas is about people, and having someone to spend it with can make all the difference.

A muslim-owned restaurant in London are starting a Christmas day initiative, offering up a free three-course meal to elderly and homeless people, adamant that ‘no one will eat alone’. It is things like that embodies the true meaning of Christmas.

There are many other ways out there, to help each other out, so people know that they don’t have to be alone during this festive time; that it isn’t just about the money and materialism. Christmas doesn’t have to be a thing of dread, that stirs bad memories, loneliness and frustration. We can all help each other out to enjoy Christmas by being there for each other. Reach out to your family members, to your friends, even to strangers. I know someone who is paying his babysitter to take the Christmas week off even though he can barely afford to.

You can do things like donate to charities: The Salvation Army, who helps around 17,000 families or individuals who struggle with the immense monetary pressure of trying to provide on Christmas, and those that struggle with the loneliness of not having anyone to share it with (there are City Missions who send out food parcels to families in need).

Cherish the moments you have this holiday with the ones you love. For Christmas doesn’t even need to involve presents, the joy of family and of peace, of sharing, of remembering, are the real presents that Christmas gives us.

This article (What Christmas Means to Me) was written exclusively for The TV’s Leaking and may not be reproduced in any way, shape or form without permission from the author.

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