I don’t know about you but I love Christmas movies. Favourites include Love Actually, The Holiday and Elf – no Christmas is complete without watching them at least once. It’s the atmosphere that hooks me every time. All that white, glistening snow-covered gorgeousness, those over-filled buffet tables, sparkling trees and heaps of presents. Families hugging, gorgeous couples kissing and a kid/dog saving the day. What’s not to love? Especially while relaxing on the sofa with mountains of vegan chocolates.
Except in reality, Christmas isn’t always like that. Take my family, for instance: we’re Russian, so Christmas for us in 7th of January. Growing up I had many Jewish friends who celebrated Hanukkah. Some of my friends are Muslim and December’s just a month like any other to them. Some people celebrate with family. Some with friends. Some have to work on Christmas and some stay at home with their kids. Some celebrate on a Thai beach and some on the ski slopes. And of course, all of us vegans nix the turkeys and mince meat pies in favour of lentil and sweet potatoes. The holidays have a different meaning to everyone – and that’s part of their magic.
Growing up, I used to believe that Christmas had to be exactly like in the movies. That presents had to be perfect, that dinner had to be effortless and theat ALL my family had to be there. That no one could ever fight, that celebrations couldn’t be moved to another day, that if I hadn’t listened to my favourite Christmas songs, the day was ruined. Little did I know, Christmas is what you make of it. After a few seasons of planning and seeing the event turn out less-than-perfect and another couple years of going with the flow to experience the most magical Christmases of my life, I finally did what we’re all meant to do around Christmas: relax and enjoy.
This year, I will be staying in London and celebrating with friends. I will possibly also be volunteering. There will be hugs and presents, but the faces looking back at me from the other side of the table are friendly faces, but not ones I’ve grown up with. I won’t board a plane or see my family. There won’t be a traditional Christmas dinner. And Christmas jumpers? Please. Don’t even get me started.
This Christmas, let go of your expectations. Have fun. Eat whatever you want. Spend time with the people you love. Relax. Watch movies, listen to music, decorate your tree all lopsided if that’s what you want. Don’t diet. Don’t struggle to stay healthy. Don’t work out unless you want to. Go crazy shopping or don’t shop at all. Wear what you want, even if it is a reindeer-print jumper. Try to find that sparkly, holiday-movie happiness within you, because that’s where it’s hiding. Enjoy Christmas – your way.
photo by David Camilli