I’ve thought long and hard about publishing this, as some people will inevitably take it the wrong way.
But, sod it, that’s their problem…
It seems that, this year, people who are depressed, dismayed, or financially overwhelmed by the prospect of Christmas – often all three and, it appears, unsurprisingly, more so than in previous years – are venting their feelings online. So I thought I’d add my contribution – avoid Christmas if you can.
I do realise that if you have a family that’s well nigh impossible, but for many of us who, like me, have no family, and live alone, it can work very well. It can also be, as in my case and doubtless that of many other people, essential for one’s personal survival.
And let’s face it, Christmas, for most, has long changed from a religious festival to the Season of Conspicuous Consumption, when people take a convoy of trolleys out of the supermarket in the days before Christmas, with enough food to keep a small African village fed for a month and, unbelievably, on Boxing Day, they’re back again! It’s obscene.
About 15 years ago it finally dawned on me that Christmas was making me profoundly, even dangerously (to me), depressed. However, as another one turned up every year, I was rather at a loss to know what to do about it.
Eventually, though, the sensible thing to do finally registered – I cancelled Christmas. Well, why not? It has no religious meaning for me, and I have no family; my shoe-box flat doesn’t even have room for a tree or decorations, or even a dining table, so it really had little point. And it was making me ill, so it had to go.
It took a couple of years for it to filter through to others that I didn’t want to play any more, largely unwanted Christmas cards diminished to almost nothing once I stopped reciprocating and, once more, at the tail end of the year, I wasn’t depressed.
I don’t want to give you the idea that my depression just stopped because I stopped Christmas, that would be wrong, it fizzled out over the space of a few Christmases, my suicidal inclinations being the first to go, mercifully.
And if any of you are thinking “Cancelled Christmas? Miserable sod!” and have never lived with near-terminal depression, then I respectfully suggest that you have no conception of what “miserable” can mean to those of us who have, and certainly no right to judge.
I decided that one personal tradition was worth continuing. In lieu of a conventional Christmas, I’d mark the turning of the year – the winter solstice, not the artificial festival of New Year – by doing something that made me happy, like cooking something out of the ordinary, or creating, as I did this year, two new recipes** – if that coincided with a spell when I was well enough to do so*** – and that, as you might have noticed this year, is something I still do.
**The game pie, below and, today, I’m marinating a gammon joint in cherry brandy, Taylor’s LBV port, and a light German white wine, with a carrot, stick of celery, onion, all chopped, + black peppercorns and juniper berries. When roasted, along with the veggies, and glazed with some of the marinade mixed with golden syrup (don’t like honey), it’ll either be amazing or horrible. I’m going, in my usual modest way, with amazing! Of course, I could be right on both counts – it might be amazingly horrible…
***By utilising my freezer, and taking advantage of my very cold fridge (2 degrees C and lower – the middle shelf is just about 0C – a bowl of water will sprout a rim of micro-thin ice, but not freeze beyond that), I’ve spread the work this year over a couple of weeks. 10 days ago I made a fruity, spicy, game pie filling which I portioned into foil dishes, and consigned to the freezer (tip: always portion into dishes when the filling is hot – if you do it cold, when you heat them they’ll overflow as the filling expands when heated**), and I’ll make the suet crusts as and when required.
**Yes, I know you could do it cold and leave space, but too much space would leave the crust unsupported, and too little and you’re back to overflowing. My way is more reliable.
You can find the recipe here should you be interested.
Then, this year, things started to go pear-shaped – people are sending me Christmas cards again!
Not just people I’ve known for years, in my building, who have never been moved to send cards in the past (or who stopped when I did), but people I have never even met – so if I bump into them I can’t even say thanks for the card, as I don’t have a face to match to the name.
Why is this happening now? I don’t know, but I can only assume, having spent so much time in hospital this year, that I’m picking up some sort of sympathy vote. If so, at the risk of seeming curmudgeonly, it’s not helping, I’m afraid.
If I’m right, then the longer I can stay out of hospital the better for my peace of mind next year, as I honestly don’t want Christmas back in my life any more than peripherally (it’s impossible to totally avoid, of course, but I choose not to participate in any role other than that of disinterested, if grouchy, observer).
I don’t, though, based on the events of this year, rate my chances very highly for next year.** Unless, of course, I’m right about my legs poisoning my entire system – a theory to which one doc at APH subscribed – in which case if the current improvement is maintained my overall health should improve. It sure as hell needs to.
**Frankly, I don’t rate my chances highly of staying out between now and the new year – I’m going downhill so fast I need skis.
Sod it, though – I’ll take my chances at home.
(NB: Some improvement today – so fingers crossed.)