No-ho-ho: Why I don’t celebrate Christmas
By Sam Nar, Photo Editor
Christmas is over but travel down the streets of Calgary and you’ll find signs of the festive season are slow to leave, with twinkling lights still wrapped around multiple houses in the neighbourhoods and subtle remixes of classic carols playing faintly in the background — even the bad ones.
Every year post-Christmas, I’m reminded of the fact that the holiday — much like my monthly payments — is unavoidable. During and leading up to December, I must marvel at the sparkliness and the extravagance, both online and offline. High spirits are like Liam Neeson in Taken, no matter where you are and where you go, it will find you. I must be jolly. I must be merry. And even if I’m not, I still have to put up with the 1.2 million other people that live in this city that are.
But while the rest of the city relishes in the long, yuletide activities, my family simply skips Christmas. We don’t bake sugar cookies, we don’t decorate our house and we don’t exchange gifts. I don’t even like the taste of candy canes — shocking, I know. I can already hear the sounds of disapproval.
Look, I get it. It’s unusual and almost unpatriotic that someone in the Western hemisphere would, of their own free will, choose not to celebrate Christmas but as a Taiwanese-Canadian, it doesn’t matter to me if it’s the 23rd, 24th, or 25th of December. For my family and me, it’s just another day.
My attitude stems from the fact that since moving to Canada, my immediate family has never once bought into any of the Christmas rituals. My parents assured me that we should never feel bad about not partaking in the holiday festivities because it wasn’t an official holiday celebrated by our country nor by us and that was okay. Unfortunately, they failed to realize that I would be the one on the frontlines of their decision, taking on the full brunt of not knowing all the names of Santa’s eight reindeers, all the little nursery poems and rhymes and not knowing gingerbread wasn’t actually ginger or bread — not that it made a difference, it tasted equally bad. Luckily for my parents, they will never understand the judgment that comes from expressing your disbelief in a jolly, old, fat man that tunnels through a chimney to bring you gifts and coal.
“I’m always met with these looks of bewilderment and almost a touch of sympathy for the loss of a childhood I’ll never truly understand but I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on much.”
When you don’t observe Christmas, a lot of the celebrations, practices and beliefs can feel like it’s being shoved down your throat. From marketing schemes in stores to punny ads that bombard your browser to the people you encounter, berating you for being a damper on the season — it’s inescapable, almost as if you’re the star of a horror movie you didn’t audition for.
Whenever I tell people I don’t celebrate Christmas, I’m always met with these looks of bewilderment and almost a touch of sympathy for the loss of a childhood I’ll never truly understand but I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on much.
According to data from a PwC Canada report, Canadian consumers spend an average of approximately CAD$1,507 during the holiday season; divided amongst gifts, travel expenses, and other forms of entertainment — ranking higher than America’s average of USD$885 (roughly, CAD$1,199.74). With the amount of money I save by abstaining from Christmas, I can cry a little less about my tuition and other financial areas of my life. Aside from bypassing money worries, I’ll also get to avoid the high-stress levels of last minute shopping which mental health experts say can trigger poorer mental health conditions. And on Christmas morning, I will be snuggled in my warm bed, achieving states of peace and tranquillity while parents across the city are met with hyperactive children hopped up on the season.
Despite how scrooge-y this might sound, I’m not against Christmas. I’m in love with all the beautiful holiday aesthetics and conventions, from the meaningful ornaments to respect for a God I don’t worship. I love having a reason to binge-watch cheesy classics like Home Alone and The Santa Clause. And I absolutely love that although people suffer through endless days of busy-ness and cold, bleak weather, they still remain cheerful because they know Christmas is at the finish line. I’m probably more obsessed with the idea of a white Christmas than any other fanatic out there. If I’m being honest though, my favourite part is probably the extended break from school that comes with the celebration.
Christmas is a day of love, giving, and miracles. It’s a day where families and friends can get together and appreciate the little things in life, where people in the community can somehow bond over age-long traditions. It’s the perfect day to cast aside all your worries and share a moment of happiness with absolute strangers. It’s about being grateful for what you have, even if what you have is not much. Christmas is the pure display of generosity, kindness, understanding and consideration leading up to an incredible and packaged 24 hours.
Based on that definition, I celebrate Christmas every day. Through the jokes I hear people make as I hustle and bustle down the streets, in the act of opening doors for people I don’t know and having someone else return the favour, to the Taiwanese concept of filial piety and respect. I may not hang wreaths on my door or eat dinners so big I fall into a food coma, but the one thing I do buy during the season is the idea of Christmas. The idea of an essence that can only comes into fruition with the contributions of everyone.
And if I’ve learned anything about this amazing celebration it is that I shouldn’t have to give up what I believe in to embrace the holiday spirit.