|Every year around this time, I get a case of the blues. It doesn’t matter what climate I live in, or what gifts I’ve received. I get a case of holiday culture shock – otherwise known as Christmas (Chanukah) Regressive Attitude Problem, or CRAP, for short.
For weeks leading up to Christmas, the shops are decorated to the brim. Everything is shiny and pretty, and people on the streets are filled with energy. Seasonal music is pumped over the Muzak system, and Christmas songs are played on the radio with alarming frequency in most Western towns and cities. If you’re like me and raised in a Western culture, you expect these things and are disappointed when you don’t get them. Last year, Sydney skimped on decorations in the city, and boy, were people upset! Even people that don’t celebrate Christmas were ready to hang the Lord Mayor. This year, the Lord Mayor, a lovely woman who wears a dog collar to work, decided she’d better not make the same mistake twice, so Sydney was enchanting this year.
One day it's all lights and pretty decorations...
The big night, for celebrants, is Christmas Eve. Candles are lit, carols are sung, luminaries are placed out at the curb, and people stay up to midnight to welcome the holiday. The next morning, gifts are exchanged and people go off “to Grandma’s house” for another dinner. Some people get three extra dinners, since they have to split their time between two sets of in-laws and someone’s aunt or uncle. I have yet to pull this one off, but I’m working on it.
Everything seems to be Currier and Ives postcard perfect, even if Uncle Walt gets into an argument with your brother and your niece breaks one of your best china dishes. It is, after all, the season to be merry. Whether you’re huddled around a fireplace, or sweltering in the heat, there is an air of excitement and expectation.
A week later, while Christmas’s (or Chanukah’s) rosy glow is still hanging on our cheeks, New Year’s swings around with its parties and hope for a better future. We turn the page and make resolutions to be better people. The shops and city streets are still decorated for one last hurrah.
And then comes the day after New Year’s Day.
After you get over the hangover, you realise that there is no more holiday music, no more free sidewalk entertainment, the decorations have been stowed away, and you have nothing exciting to look forwards to except perhaps the flu. I think this is one reason that people get depressed over the holidays. So much hype, so much expectation, and then, a huge letdown. Even if you have family and parties to go to, there’s still a letdown at the end – It’s inevitable.
... the next it's cheap chicken...
The once-cheery household is reduced to these kinds of conversations:
“What do you want for dinner?”
“Well, I’m not going out to buy anything. I just bought you a bunch of ‘toys’.” (“Toys,” in this case, include items from Adult World.)
“I can get us something. I’ve got ten bucks.”
The other person is thinking: what can you possibly get for two people for ten Aussie bucks?
So, you wind up having chicken and chips from the chip shop around the corner, and the conversation progresses:
“It’s hot. It’s too hot to eat.”
“What do you want to watch on the telly?”
“Let’s watch ‘Christmas with the Kranks.’ We’ve only watched that once this year.”
“Can you adjust the aerial? You always get the picture to come in perfect.”
“I can’t eat that potato salad! The cat just sneezed on it!”
“Would you tear yourself away from the computer? Dinner’s on the table.”
“You have a naked man in the house,” (proudly proclaimed by husband who is too hot to have clothes on.)
...with a naked man and a sneezing cat.
The “table” is the coffee table in the lounge. My dining room table still has the Christmas décor on it, but we aren’t seated there. I’m sitting on a loveseat, at the coffee table with chicken and chips and my husband, whose gut and other bits are hanging out. It’s well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside and the cat keeps poking his head into my dinner and sneezing on it. It’s going to be a long, slow and painful wind down to the next event. No wonder I feel like CRAP.