What actually is Christmas?

by Nicole Serafin, Age 40, Tintenbar NSW

I have been observing, not only this year but over the past few years, what it is that Christmas actually is.

When we were young it was all about the presents, then as I hit my teenage years it became all about the celebrations and parties that went along with the festive season. I spent many a morning with hangovers, then the afternoons with a very full belly, wishing I had not eaten or drunk so much. Then as I got older there seemed to actually be no true meaning to Christmas.

People used to say that if you had children or grandchildren that it was all about the children, but if you did not have any children, what then? You can see on the news the amount of unwanted gifts that get returned or sold online; gifts that have been given out of duty or obligation because it is just something we do at Christmas. Gifts are purchased that can often not be afforded, but the debt is incurred anyway, just to make sure that we are ‘doing the right thing’. The extra stress and pressure people put themselves under to make sure that the day is perfect, whether it be with food, alcohol and/or gifts, is enormous.

Each year the conversations that I have with people – whether it be shopkeepers, checkout people, family or friends – are always the same: why do we do this, I can’t wait for it to be over, next year I am going to do it differently, etc. They then dread the day that their credit card statement arrives.

For me it appeared that the meaning and purpose of Christmas had been lost and it became increasingly difficult to go along with it the older I got. It felt like it had become something that we celebrate out of habit, rather than what we feel we should do, in the way that we feel it should be.

I decided that I had to distance myself from the whole Christmas thing in order to rediscover what, for me, Christmas was all about. I got to feel that Christmas was a time that I wanted to spend with people dear to me, with friends and family. It is a time to celebrate who I am, and reflect on what I have, and appreciate where I am at. I then take that deeper appreciation and self-love with me into the new year.

111 thoughts on “What actually is Christmas?

  1. Ho Ho Ho, Christmas ’tis the season to fill your ledgers with black ink at the cost of all, to over spend, eat and drink to excess. To gather up our families for the once a year festival to feud and fight and for lonely ones to suffer in silence. To spend money we don’t have to buy things we don’t need. Have we all forgotten what Christmas is all about? I agree with you Nicole, it is a time to appreciate and reflect who we are and how far we have come and bring that love with us into the new year.

  2. The Christmas parties I see always feel ” fake” because family members not really meet each other – it is a duty to fulfill and that’s it….very sad. I love this time of the year, exactly because of the reasons you were sharing. It is a time to celebrate who I am, and reflect on what I have, and appreciate where I am at. I then take that deeper appreciation and self-love with me into the new year.

  3. I have opted out of the Xmas thing some time ago, and what a relief, no more trying to fit in to the idea of presents, parties and the over indulgence of food and drink. These days it is more a family and friends celebration coming together to share ourselves with each other. I love the celebration of who I am, reflect and appreciate where I am at. It would be beautiful to have this consistently throughout my days.

  4. For me your description of Christmas is a great reflection of how we live our daily life. It is just a very extreme version but it shows what we expect from life and others.

  5. It was a breath of fresh air when our family decided not to buy Christmas presents for each other as we could feel this was done from a feeling of obligation. I would much rather if I see something that I know someone would like, and I feel like buying it for them to do this at the time. Let’s face it most often than not people don’t need the gifts they are given, then there is the whole feeling of the need to be polite to not offend or seem ungrateful, then one has to find room, cupboard space to put the presents in or alternatively many get given away or even put in the bin if there is a reluctance to clutter, what is the point in all of this?. It’s great to provide the space in life to assess what we do, and to feel what feels draining rather than go along with expectations or what ever is the norm, does it feel right for you or draining buying gifts each Christmas?

  6. ‘I can’t wait for it to be over’. I hear that every Yuletide, from all around the place. So why don’t people vote with their feet? I don’t mean getting away from it all, but rather choosing not to get into it at all. Why do we go along with a set of expectations, ideals and traditions that have become empty in meaning and devoid of true purpose? Is it because we don’t want to stand out and look bah humbug? It’s inspiring how you’ve seriously considered what the whole shebang means to you and made it much more true for you – about reflection, appreciation and self-love. It feels a great way to close down the year and prepare for the next one.

    1. I agree Cathy, I too hear every year in the supermarkets people who say they cannot wait for Christmas to be over, or they dread having the family round. Where’s the fun in this?
      Christmas has become so commercialised and we have all bought into it, spending far more than we can probably afford.
      It’s great to have a blog about Christmas that gets everyone to may be reconsider all the false ideals and beliefs around this time of year.

  7. “The extra stress and pressure people put themselves under to make sure that the day is perfect, whether it be with food, alcohol and/or gifts, is enormous.” The joy that we can so easily bring to another can be easily forgotten through the stresses of the Christmas panic. Thank you for this great sharing Nicole.

  8. I have never been a big fan of Christmas because it has become too commercialised. I did put a lot of effort into Christmas for my daughter when she was a child, but as she grew up this naturally died away. I love the get together with friends, having the time off work so that if there is any snow we can go and play in it. This business of Jesus being born in December is twaddle, it’s a miss mash of cultures that have been woven together by the religion of the day centuries ago, because the so called pagans celebrated the mid winter solstice. It would make far more sense to celebrate the mid winter solstice as this a time of endings and new beginnings in a rhythm of life.

  9. Christmas has held many meanings for me over the years but now I have stepped back from it to a large degree. We do still spend time with family, which I enjoy, but it is none the less kept low key. I do struggle with the blatant commercialism that goes on at this time of the year and the way people go into overdrive and stress modes in order to be doing what they perceive is the ‘right thing’. Then there is another side and that is the rise in domestic violence, suicides and drug and alcohol abuse. All in all there really is a huge toll which society is generally unwilling to acknowledge.

  10. We do need rituals and rhythms in our lives but more and more we are finding our established rituals are empty and commercialised… could it be that a paradigm shift of celebration is in order and that with this shift would be much more of an honouring of who we truly are.

    1. Yes, I agree cjames2012. If the idea of celebration was really pulled apart and rebuilt with its true meaning then the whole concept of Christmas and other major public holiday times would be completely different. People would gather together in a very different way to what happens now.

  11. When we think about being delicate, vulnerable and honest, then think about Christmas, it seems sad that so much of the festivity comes from a false sense of celebration.

  12. I woke up this morning, feeling the beauty and clarity all around me, feeling the gathering momentum of the coming change of the moon cycle to motion from 3 terms of repose, looking out at a very still sunny spring morning with delicate birdsongs, and felt … this is indeed a celebration of yet another day.

  13. Christmas always feels quite empty for me, almost an obligatory time to get together. While it could be the celebration of all the connections we have with ourself and others, and come together to enjoy our company without any obligations or expectations just be together. But other than that, an ordinary day could also just be that, so christmas isn’t truly special…

  14. I feel this, too, Christmas is a celebration of self-love, love, brotherhood, to appreciate oneself and another. This can be celebrated every day of the year. Now that we have chosen this special time of the year to celebrate it, it gets really obvious where we as a humanity stand concerning self-love, love, brotherhood, appreciation… In preparation of the ceremony we make sure that we are as far checked out as possible.

  15. I love the concept of making Christmas about connection and for it being a time to celebrate you and reflect and appreciate. That feels so much more beautiful than the pressure and obligation that Christmas has become.

  16. It really is an extraordinary ritual that is so fraught for virtually everyone with credit cards maxing out , a big spike in domestic violence, and this is meant to be a celebration… let us return to true celebrations that support and nurture us all.

  17. “I got to feel that Christmas was a time that I wanted to spend with people dear to me, with friends and family. It is a time to celebrate who I am, and reflect on what I have, and appreciate where I am at. I then take that deeper appreciation and self-love with me into the new year.” Beautiful. Christmas can be so exhausting – especially for the hosts – who want to make it ‘perfect’. Far better to appreciate and celebrate with loved ones and let go of the commercial aspects of it all.

  18. For me what I choose to do at Christmas is constantly evolving, it has tended to be low-key for a number of years with my wider family choosing to get together sometime over the period but often the day itself being quietly spent. One aspect of the wider expectation I have struggled with is sending Christmas cards and I feel I have been in reaction to this for many years. I expressed over 30 years ago that I didn’t see the point in sending Christmas cards to people I worked with but until recently was still sending them to neighbours, who for me it is more important to truly connect with when we meet in the street at any time of year. In the last couple of years I have sent virtually none but continue to use it as an opportunity to connect with friends and family further afield who I rarely have contact with. Until the end of his life my father sent out lots of cards (with increasing help from the family) and always insisted in putting a message in each because he did not see the point of getting a card with no news in it. It is interesting to reflect on where I am still affected by the belief that people will feel snubbed if I don’t send them a card with a snowy Xmas scene on with just my name inside?!

  19. Thank you Nicole I have seen Christmas as a time of reflection and appreciation but had not considered that the celebration aspect could also be about celebrating where I am and from there going forward into the new year to build on this platform of self-love ready to evolve with whatever life presents.

  20. Why do we do it when most of us don’t like the way it’s being done? Maybe we just don’t know how to celebrate properly. Maybe we don’t know that there is a way to celebrate without eating and drinking too much. I guess we’ll have to try our way with this. I know a lot of people that skip a lot of the “traditional” things around Christmas such as buying too much presents. I know I love coming together with family.

  21. What a bummer that we have made Christmas an idealised feast – whilst it is actually about true connection and celebration of what already is. This makes total sense as there is nothing we should try or pretend – just be and celebrate like any other day of connection. Which totally kicks out any ideals that it is about family only and that the measure that it can come with – only this family – but actually the truth is that we are whole big one family. As connection is connection no matter with whom. So therefore we must not seek the ideal and dig further into that – but stay out and truly connect with one another.

  22. Nowadays, I appreciate taking a short break away to visit my elderly mother in law, walking by the sea and relaxing a little. We don’t take long holidays other than these breaks which I love, and I now see Christmas as just one of these. I find the massive hype of it going on around me to be very false and unpleasant for all the reasons given. It is as if the true terrain of life – which is flat, and equal, every day being the same, has been built up and inflated into peaks such as Christmas that are not real as is the come down afterwards.

  23. I love sharing Christmas with loved ones and friends, but like to keep it low key – simple presents for the grandchildren and a simple shared meal. Unless I have a shared game or gift in mind I do not give the presents to the young ones until a few weeks or so after Christmas because it would be an overload. I’ve dropped the Christmas card ritual too.

  24. Instead of seeing each occasion as separate and a stand-alone celebration what would happen if the appreciation of every celebration we experience was actually built on and considered a foundational part of our development from one day to the next?

  25. It’s interesting to read this blog following reading a blog about weddings… In the plethora of presents, food, drink, and expectation that we have to gather at this time, it seems that the true essence of what Christmas time can be has been lost.
    It is up to us, to step out of the fray and make it about true meaning and connection again, isn’t it… If we so choose.
    Very much appreciating that you have voiced the craziness here in this blog Nicole, thank-you.

  26. We seem to have lost our way in what a true ‘celebration’ can really be, don’t we… Instead of celebrating and cherishing the connections between people, affirming our love for ourselves and those around us, we have replaced the true and rich value of such love with consumerism, ‘things’ and indulgences – it’s most definitely time to review where we are at, and look at what really matters.
    For it is the quality of love that we live that goes with us when we pass over from this life. The extravagance, credit card debt and stresses are worth questioning – are they really worth it? And are we not all worth so much more?

  27. A great blog Nicole, it feels time to bring the Christmas cheer and celebration into our lives everyday – why wait for one day of the year to truly connect and appreciate ourselves and those we love.

  28. Christmas for me used to be about over eating and drinking. I would usually have had several drinks way before Christmas lunch was ready, and that scene of conking out in front of the TV afterwards is very familiar. When you take away the excessive eating and drinking what’s left? Well the present buying can be very stressful and expensive. Last year our family did a secret Santa where we all picked a name out of a hat and bought a present for one person. That worked very well. This year as Christmas approaches I am looking at it as a wonderful opportunity to rest and connect with friends and family.

  29. This Christmas I am planning to simplify even more than I did last year. Children seem to receive too much in our more affluent country. So much is given throughout the year that I feel as many others that to enjoy a loving, harmonious day with family and friends is a beautiful and joyful way to celebrate the day!

  30. We can. If we choose, actually celebrate ourselves, our friends, our families, our partners and our lives whenever we choose, and however we choose…. The thing is , it is a choice, and that’s the rub

  31. I too remember going to all the Christmas parties and all the hype around Christmas, growing expectations and disappoints too. Now I enjoy a simple time having the family and friends around for a meal, where we celebrate each other, a chance to talk and just be.

  32. A very timely read (day before Christmas day) and reminder of what Christmas truly can be about when we step back from all the hype and stress of the perfect ‘picture’ of Christmas. Up until I moved countries nearly 3 years ago, leading up to Christmas was full of stress, obligation and making things perfect on that ‘one’ day. Instead of making it about appreciating what the year has been, how we are in our connection with ourselves and the relationships we have deepened or opened up to around us. The obligation thing feels awful for the person receiving and the person giving.

  33. Christmas is a great time to be with friends and family, celebrating and enjoying being together, no emphasis on food or presents or outer looks. No need to because of the appreciation we have of ourselves and our lives, This does away with the pressure of the must have best Christmas dinner ever with a huge shopping list, standing hours in the kitchen, getting exhausted and feeling relieved with this festive season is over.

  34. This is a great invitation for me to stop and feel what I accept and do as a habit, without questioning the meaning or purpose. Like, I visit my mother regularly – used to be almost every week, but now less frequent because of work, but I do. It feels like there would be more to be appreciated if I take the opportunity to really understand and embrace whatever that is being offered.

  35. I have wondering this year that perhaps all the present giving is something we do to compensate for the lack of love and connection we feel at this time of year more acutely.

  36. The Christmas season is one of the most fake things we have on this planet. It should be the most wonderful time of the year but we have made it into the most stressful time of the year while still pretending that is (or was) wonderful. You should be having great parties, dinners, gathers and saying you are NOT looking forward to it, or that you did not enjoy them when they are done with, is unheard of.

  37. Crazy Christmas time, I managed to come out feeling pretty amazing this year. It was almost weird how easy it was and in this ease it felt as if everyone around us was cruising too. I bought a few things for the kids on Friday with my husband before Christmas and even that we breezed in and out with no stress. On the day everyone brought a plate and the ease in which it was brought together was remarkable. I almost felt like someone was missing and I think it was the hint of drama that I have become accustomed to.

  38. How can a true celebration be an endurance event or something that is dreaded or regretted by many? This exposes already how we have got very muddled up when it comes to what this day is actually about.

  39. It’s so true Nicole we say yes to so many obligatory things like “Christmas” but rarely stop and think about the real meaning of it all, mostly justifying it because it’s what we grew up with or it’s what everyone else is doing.

  40. As more christmas’s pass, I let go a little more each year of what I believe Christmas should look like in terms of the amount of ‘fun & excitement’ I expect to have along with letting go of the expectation that it will be a flop. What I notice however, is that although I no longer have a strong attachment to all it has represented for me in the past, I still get caught up in it at the last minute. The consciousness around Christmas feels so ingrained and so strong, that it’s so very interesting how quickly we fall into an old pattern.

  41. Nicole it is so true what you share about how Christmas has become something to celebrate out of habit, rather than feeling into what would is an appropriate way to celebrate its true meaning , which is to honour and share our love for each other.

  42. Oh so simple Nicole and it’s become something more complicated. I think its great that people are questioning and asking is there more to Christmas than what I see on TV or in the shops. It shows that we know there is inherently more and that we no longer want the pretence.

  43. There is no doubt that for many the meaning of Christmas is overshadowed by the stress and pressure which sadly has become the norm. Any holiday regardless of the meaning should have true connection with self and others as the foundation for any celebration, just like any other day really.

  44. Thanks Nicole… A perfect example of how a manufactured ritual can become such a part of society that, even when the emptiness and shallowness of it is felt, it is extremely difficult to… kick the habit so to speak. The amount of guilt and emptiness and expense compounds… Just look at Mother’s Day for example.

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