This year will be my second Christmas without my dad. On November the 8th, 2017, my dad passed away from oesophageal cancer at the age of fifty-nine. Last year his death was so raw that my mum and I floundered when it came to Christmas. Friends offered to spend their days with us, cousins invited us to their homes instead, and we ended up participating in an eclectic selection of old Christmas traditions, whilst abandoning others and spent the day with family friends. Every single minute was excruciating.
Ever since I was born I have spent Christmas with my mum and dad. We would host Christmas every year at our home with my grandparents and occasionally a few other family members spending the day with us. When my grandparents on my mum’s side passed away our numbers dwindled to four: myself, my mum, my dad, and his mum (my gran). Despite the absence of much love family members who were no longer with us my ‘Christmas spirit’ never dwindled. I’ve always been one of those annoying Christmas enthusiasts who revelled in the public and personal traditions that came with the season. I counted down the sleeps before the big day even into my twenties. At the end of the day, however, it was always about spending time with the most important people in my life.
Now, I can’t wait for Christmas to be over. When you love it the constant jingles being played in stores and gift guides for ‘hard to buy for fathers’ are part of the bliss. But when those things become a reminder of everything you’ve lost there constant presence is draining. I would never want the Christmas cheer to disappear because I know how much joy I got out of it in the past – despite being from a family of blasphemous Marxist, atheists. I also want to share that joy with my own children one day. All of the perspective in the world, however, doesn’t make it any less difficult or emotionally straining this time of year.
You might find it difficult to believe if you’ve never been through something similar but I don’t actually miss Christmas. I’m happy to let the day pass me by. My mum and I, thankfully are on the same page. This year we plan on watching television and feeding the birds come the 25th with no Christmas decor in sight. I might even do a little bit of work… Nevertheless, it feels uncomfortable when people ask me ‘what are your plans for Christmas this year?’ (over and over and over again). I feel as though I’m stomping on their festive cheer when I tell them that Christmas has lost its sparkle for me. Lots of people, friends and strangers, try to offer me comfort by assuring me that it’ll get better and at least my mum and I can celebrate together. But to reiterate I don’t miss Christmas. I don’t need to reclaim any of the joy it brought me in the past because the only thing I truly miss is my dad. I don’t want to make the most of Christmas; I would much rather forget people are even celebrating on the twenty-fifth because the only purpose it serves now is to remind me that my dad is gone. And do you know what, that’s OK.
I don’t have to love Christmas, you don’t have to love Christmas, and I certainly don’t have to rescue it for myself. Don’t feel sorry that I’ve ‘lost’ Christmas. There are many other wonderful things in my life, even if sometimes its hard to smile about them; Christmas just isn’t really one of them anymore.