Warning: This post contains me discussing my own relationship with food over the Christmas period. May cause triggers.
So, my peeps (yeah, I can’t pull peeps off, can I?), it’s nearly that festive season again. It’s just merely a few weeks away, are you all excited yet? All presents shopped and wrapped? No? Well neither have I, but the present wrapping and giving and the endless merry-go-round aren’t really what I want to talk about. Now, other than fashion, there are two things that usually plague my waking thoughts – food and love. And both of them can either be in short supply or on overload over the Christmas season.
So, I don’t know if you noticed, but I love food. I mean, in that way you love your family – sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it, sometimes you want to never see it again, sometimes it doesn’t particularly love you back. I’m in particular a sweet tooth kind of girl, although I have moments of needing savoury too but it’s mainly about the sweeter things in life.
This makes Christmas truly difficult. Everywhere you look, there’s another advert for sweet things, usually in Christmassy themed packaging for which I’m a sucker for. I’m also very, very fond of a giant tin of chocolates and eating my way through them during Christmas – somewhere in the archives is footage of me eating about five Quality Street toffee pennies in one mouthful and being unable to speak when asked a question on camera. Ask me about my Christmas memories, and somewhere there will be food….like the time me and my sister ate all the chocolate baubles off the tree and wasn’t allowed them ever again (it was mainly me though….)…..or the ritual and routine of wake up, open presents, eat chocolate, have a bacon sandwich, eat chocolate, have Christmas lunch, eat chocolate, eat cake, have tea-time far too much food which you’ll eat for ten days later buffet, eat pudding, eat chocolate, bed. Repeat except for bacon sandwich and Christmas dinner on Boxing Day. I’ve also a memory of watch Sound of Music sometime over the Christmas holidays when the boiler broke and being sat eating a box of After Eights….
It is perfectly normal to eat too much food over Christmas. Everyone does it, and having worked in retail all my working life I know that its big business to make this link between food and Christmas perfection. Right now I can’t look at an Iceland advert without going ‘oooh, look at that!’ when any other time of the year I’d not be bothered by their party food selections at all.
I think Christmas is where my strongest bonds of connecting food with happiness come from….don’t we all find that pressure to be happy at that time of year? And that we generally are, because you’re surrounded by family and love which is sometimes not shown around the rest of the year. But because so much fanfare and fuss was made about the food, the getting of it, the storing of it in a special box and a special garage located fridge (yes, we were just oh so slightly middle class and had two fridges.), the not being able to touch it pre-December 25th. I think that combination of it being both forbidden and hallowed as special is what makes eating around that period so memorable and so directly correlated to my own food issues. Because it’s one of the clearest memories I have of making that recognition that food made me happy.
So I said I think a lot about Love too. Which I do, but I mean all kinds of love….that from your family, friends, and relationships. As I got older, I began to understand that my desire to sit in, with my family, watch rubbish films and eat a lot of food for the *whole* Christmas period was probably not normal. That most others confined that to one day, Christmas Day, rather than my Christmas Eve with relatives where I looked forward to Elizabeth’s special eggs that she made (egg, mayonnaise and paprika. yum.), Christmas Day as aforementioned and then Boxing Day with my Grandma that was either a second home cooked dinner or dinner out somewhere. I never questioned any of that, because I enjoyed it and it made me feel loved. I got to see all of my relatives over Christmas and that made me feel so happy…..that I could be reassured that those I loved most dearly loved me too was the best gift a girl of low self-esteem could be given.
But then people had to go and start dying on us! Which meant as each person sadly passed away, my dad, then my Grandma, and then Elizabeth of lovely eggs fame, one more tradition fell by the wayside. And for every Christmas since, I’ve tried to find my own to replace them. My beloved sister has been luckier blessed, as she gained her own family not long after and had cause to develop her own traditions. I however as a singleton, struggled all the more….in fact two Christmas ago I really didn’t know right up until late on where I’d be, which made the fact my own jolly Christmas loving Dad wasn’t here to bond us all together and bring the family as one….because he was truly the linchpin, the organiser, the host and without him, everyone drifted apart and I was kind of left out in the cold. I think that Christmas was when I started becoming closer to my mum again, because she was the only person willing to have me about!
I can’t stress enough how I equate Christmas with food and love. If I don’t see or hear from people at Christmas, no matter who they are, to me that’s the worst pain you could inflict upon me. All the rest of the year around I’m tolerant and can put up with not seeing people from one week to the next if that’s what is happening, but Christmas? No way at all.
Also, back to the Christmases where I’ve struggled for plans, or where they’ve been pale imitations of those since past, they’ve really made me acutely aware of my own single status. I always silently think to myself ‘Sara, maybe you need to get a man, and make your own Christmas’. But that’s also kind of not the point. I don’t want to just fill my Christmases with someone else’s family and their traditions. One, they’d not do it right and two, they’re not my family and thus not the right equation of food + love. I guess it boils down to the fact that if I don’t see those that I care about at Christmas, of all times, it makes me think that they don’t love me, that they don’t care about me. Because in my head, Christmas is the one time of the year where you can make an effort to see people.
Oh, I was talking about what people do beside the rotation of food, wasn’t I? I did have a point – that over the last few years I’ve tried to get more into the party spirit of Christmas….that long lead up to the actual day where you drink your own weight in booze, and pickle your liver whilst also burning the soles of your feet off courtesy of those new party shoes. And so far, it seems to have worked…..whilst I may have lost some of the traditions that previously made my heart sing, it has made me make more of an effort to try and diversify into other aspects, and into other people. So the previously dreaded or not really fussed by Christmas party or parties have now become events I actually look forward to. I think its efforts on my own behalf to try and get used to that more modern and adult Christmas…where family plays a part, but its a lot more about sharing the love, and the food perhaps, with everyone not just those you share DNA with.
So this Christmas I will be continuing on with the newer traditions that I’ve built up over the last few years, developing newer ones still and trying to find different ways to get to see all those that I hold most dear. I think Christmas Past for me had the watch word of ‘Traditions’; Christmas of the Present has the watch word of ‘Evolving’ and the Christmas of the Future? Well, I’m no ghost or Ebenezer Scrooge so that is your guest as good as mine. Although, I once played Mrs Cratchett in A Christmas Carol during a Guides Christmas play, and I may have just slightly been influenced by Miss Piggy’s portrayal of her. But hey, I got a few laughs which always are comforting!
So, what is your Christmas ideal? And are there any issues that you find stressful or try to avoid over the festive season?