He slammed down the book and relished the ripples of shock and irritation as they echoed around the library.
“Sorry, so sorry,” he said, meekly, his head held low and so that his floppy fringe hid his small grin. The room was fusty, with dust collecting on every surface, weighing people down. They’d be slow to react, he’d get to enjoy every frown and tut as it unfolded around him. He lifted the book high a second time.
Here’s to all of you who do Christmas your way. And all of you who don’t, but want to.
There are many rules for Christmas: turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, crackers, decorations, cards. And then the rules within the rules about how to do each of those things. It can end up being exhausting and stressful, instead of merry. For me, the best Christmases have been when I’ve abandoned the rules and found a new route through the festive season. A rebel Christmas doesn’t have to be anything fancy, it just has to be what you and those you’re spending it with, truly want.
Whether it’s huddled around a two-bar fire with your loved ones, with the only decoration a Christmas Cabbage tree (with tinsel); or on your own, eating chocolate pudding in the bath and singing along to the radio; or a rowdy drunken family Christmas shouting at the telly, the turkey, and each other.
My favourite Christmas was also one of the toughest. I had just moved to Mexico City with a guy I barely knew. We had had plans of finding work, but Christmas is not a good time for that, so we found ourselves broke and living in one hotel room. The streets were filled with sparkling coloured lights, but unlike home, these lights all played Christmas songs in bleeps, most of them slightly out of tune, all of them clashing. We saw Santas climbing up the side of buildings, reindeer on rooves. We went to markets and saw row upon row of little white Jesuses, and then row upon row of little black Jesuses. Mexico City loved Christmas. it was fun, but also threw into sharp relief the fact that we had no idea what we were doing or how it would work out.
We couldn’t afford to go to restaurants, and were living off cake; mountains of cake. We even tried the ham and sugar glazed doughnuts that the bakery sold (an incredibly inventive place). My companion, let’s call him Spider, got sick a few days before Christmas. So I found myself venturing out into the polluted, bewildering streets of Mexico to find something to cheer him up. I found strawberry yoghurt and a bookshop that sold books in English. I bought some spy novels and a Mills and Boon.
On Christmas day itself, we had a feeling of fearful doom and displacement, but together me and Spider fought the blues and spent the day reading our new books to each other in silly voices. We treated ourselves to a meal (with vegetables!) and the TV was showing the film Night at the Roxbury. It’s not the most sophisticated film ever, but it was just the kind of daft, joyous nonsense that we could deal with. We weren’t sure we were going to survive Mexico, but we were sure as fuck going to enjoy Christmas.
(note: we did survive Mexico, it’s an amazing city and once Christmas was over it wasn’t so difficult to find work.)
So to everyone making their own celebration, whatever you call it, however you do it, Merry Delightful Christmas to you. Relish every small delight on this day, when all the usual humdrum stops and can be replaced by whatever.