Feeling festive and fortunate
I’ve learnt a lot this year and like most people I use this time of year to reflect and plan ahead. As we approach Christmas it always makes me feel of those less fortunate. I’ll try to make this post as less cringe as possible because I’m also aware that there are some people who don’t enjoy Christmas at all (I used to be one of them myself). I mean we all know how commercial it’s become which can make us all feel like we have to spend above and beyond our means to make others happy. The adverts of a busy household, on the big day, can also create feelings of incredible loneliness. As a Muslim I’ve rarely celebrated Christmas. One year my Mum and brother decided to go to Pakistan for the holidays and so it was just me and my Dad for 3 weeks. He had no clue how to celebrate the day itself and was happy to just spend the day asleep on the sofa after eating an average curry I’d made us, whilst I studied for my exams! I felt incredibly lonely as I watched ‘Love actually’, seeing how many people were simply just interacting with each other. I felt so alone. My Dad didn’t, probably because he had no expectations of the day, having never ever celebrating it. They don’t even know it exists in Pakistan which is where he was born and grew up. But me, on the other hand, I was British born and of the Disney generation. My expectations for the holidays were high, especially as I’d just spent loads of time with my mates down the pub and at least having a meal with more than one other person at the table every year, up until then! I had grown up and the mild celebrations had long gone along with my childhood.
It’s not like we ever had decorated a tree, made decorations, ever went to any Christmas events…or had that may people round our house. We simply had to have the time off because it was a national holiday and just had a simple meal on the day. My Dad was a workaholic. So the lack of festivities inevitably turned me into a bit of a scrooge, especially because my blueprint for what the holiday season should involve, didn’t match the reality. Until a few years ago. I created a realistic idea for my specific British Muslim Pakistani lifestyle and decided to swap expectation for appreciation (as quoted by the amazing Tony Robbins).
Getting more work as a freelancer has meant that I get invited to more than one Christmas do. And it’s never a fancy ball or special do. It’s usually a scramble to book somewhere ‘cheap and cheerful’ which has nice food and a place for those who wish to, do drink. I only end up going to just one or two. And the rest of my celebrations take place with family.
Having had a lot of work this year as a freelancer I managed to save a bit of money so decided to take my Mum out for dinner on her Birthday, as well as invite my cousin and auntie! I’m usually the only one who does presents every year in our family so instead decided to put most of it into an experience. With months of careful planning and saving I was able to create this memory that will stay with us forever. (Cue cliche emotional music – The Pakistani in me laps up the soppy sentimentality of that sentence and the Brit in me felt the strong need to add the sentence, afterwards!)
We all know that Christmas is about spending time with family not necessarily money bbut
But since thinking differently about my lifestyle I could and wanted to show my appreciation the best way I knew how. This was the start of feeling festive this year…the build up so to speak…that can be anticlimactic but with some planning can create some happiness without breaking the bank.
Life is what we make it! (Again, insert cliche music here) So by trying to get into the festive spirit at this time of year, for someone like me, will certainly be worth it.
And since I am feeling festive, for the first time ever, (maybe probably since Primary School) I’ve made Christmas decorations! Even though we don’t celebrate Christmas, choosing to create that festive atmosphere, with just a few bits if paper, youtube and a pair of scissors is another way of being grateful and showing my appreciation for the fortunate life I do have.
Not everyone has family which has made me really fortunate for mine, even if we don’t celebrate Christmas. Fortunate that I am born in this country – that I don’t have to endure inequality. Fortunate that I have family around me and fortunate that I have the ability to earn (and not just minimum wage!) This means that I can take my family out for dinner, go for that Christmas work meal with friends and put money towards food for the big day itself. I’m surrounded by loving people and it’s important I show my gratitude for that…and celebrate it!
This time of year can be really lonely for some. The build up towards the big day can be exciting and exhilarating but for some the day itself can be a huge let down, especially when it’s spent alone. Being grateful for what is already in our lives is a great start to attracting more happiness.
If there’s one thing that my family do know how to celebrate this national holiday though, it’s how to eat. It may not be the traditional turkey but being able to buy a mountain of veg, spiced leg of lamb and a spicy gravy to match! We’ve found our own traditions and I’m grateful for them, no matter how small they are.