By Kay Newton
I can still vividly remember the physical panic and dread the month of December would create in me every year from when the kids were born until they left home. It was usually followed by spending the whole of January in bed with flu.
My goal was to create the perfect traditional festive celebration for the family, to be the perfect daughter, mother and wife, yet there was never enough time to do all the chores leading up to Christmas. In truth, I hated it.
I would spend many weeks before making endless gift lists. These gifts then had to be wrapped correctly in the customary elaborate fashion. There was also the Christmas card list, all handwritten with a personal message, as well as the customary round robin letter full of boasts and ego about each member of the family and their achievements that year. It used to take forever.
The worst list of all was the huge food shop, items bought just for that ‘one’ day of the year, which the credit card confirmed was more appropriate to a full year of prepping for World War 3. On top of this, the house needed to be spring-cleaned from top to bottom and decorated as per English custom: gigantic Christmas tree and all its baubles, the homemade Xmas wreaths, table decorations and mantle-piece dressings. This was my traditional Christmas.
We all have customs and beliefs that are passed from generation to generation, no matter where we are in the world, yet when I look back, I am not sure where all my traditions came from. Some I remember from my childhood, for example, the making of the Christmas cake and pudding in October, which I used to do with my grandmother, followed by the weekly ceremony of pouring a small glass of sherry over it in order that the fruit would be just right on the day. Having brandy butter with the X-mas pudding was something my husband’s family insisted upon, whereas in Yorkshire we always had cheese with our cake, something he had to get used to!
No matter where you are in the world, your society will have traditions and beliefs. If we like them then they are joyous events; if we don’t, they can weigh us down. But if you think about it, it is obvious that, at some point, somebody instigated the custom/belief and others followed. In other words, nothing is written in stone.
You have the power to change and create your own traditions and beliefs in the same way others have done so before you.
For the past five years, I have ditched all my old traditions in favour of a more simplistic festive season. I am a much happier person now. I do not feel guilty about contributing to landfill and wasting the valuable resources of the planet, which is in a serious state.
For example, and this is embarrassing, I remember buying a wall-mounted fish that sang and moved to ‘Don’t worry be happy’ complete with batteries. I bought it for a friend, who on opening his gift looked at me despairingly. It was thrown in the rubbish a few weeks later. How sad is that?
Overeating rich and unhealthy foods at Christmas meant January became compulsory dieting month. Not any longer. There are also many more trees on the planet as I no longer send greeting cards. My husband loves me more too: we are no longer paying the bank for our overspend well into June of the following year!
In fact, living simply has become somewhat of a year-round passion. I call it being ‘KISSED’: Keep, It, Super, Simple, Every, Day. I like this tradition; it creates space, peace and harmony. If something doesn’t save time, money and my environment, keep me happy, healthy and grateful it isn’t included.
The one thing that remains constant even with my new KISSED tradition is the people I share it with – my close family and friends. That’s it. Laughter, hugs, time to talk and reflect upon the year in the company of those I love. The memories we create together will be mine to keep for my lifetime.
As the year draws to a close and 2018 is just around the corner perhaps you may wish to be KISSED and to pass these new traditions to others. I wish you all happiness whatever you choose at this time of year.