I’ve been wondering about a whole list of things I grew up with or ended up adding the family traditions simply because “it’s what we always do at Christmas” or “it’s what you are supposed to do at Christmas”, and my pet peeve “you can only do that during the Christmas season”. Non-conformist FrogDiva that I have become, I began dispensing with a few of these traditions a couple of years ago, 2016 to be exact. The death of my parents that year marked the beginning of a new set of norms for me, that I would no longer follow, much as I loved my parents.
- Fruitcake – there was a time I would bake fruitcakes religiously to give away during Christmas, which was always followed by the second of wave of fruitcakes that everyone else and their grandma also baked and gave away. First of all it’s a lot of work that is anything but enjoyable. Second, I don’t have the time or the inclination to age them nor the space to store them properly. Third, I don’t even like fruitcake that much to begin with. Fourth, why does it have to be a Christmas thing only? If I have a craving for it in May I will jolly well make one – by which time the ingredients are much cheaper as well! The baking suppliers seem to quadruple the price of dried fruits around October, knowing that most self-respecting committed bakers will begin their agonising baking journey in November if they want to churn out socially presentable fruitcakes. Under this category I include the German Christstollen as well, which is even more work!
- Turkey, goose or duck for Christmas dinner – this one went off my list even further back. If I want to have a Christmas Even dinner of rice, vegetables and fish, why the heck not? My mother once suggested a bucket of KFC for Christmas Eve and my Dad countered with pizza, but we got stuck with the obligatory roasted fish and fresh spring rolls the next day, much to everyone’s chagrin. If we are to honour the Christmas Story to the tee, a lavish dinner on Christmas Eve is all wrong to begin with. Jesus was born in a manger, which means Mary and Joseph barely had anything to eat that evening, probably just stale bread, dates, and whatever they still had from their long journey. There were no supermarkets at the time, and the innkeepers had already turned them away, so no food from the inn either. Stale bread and fresh milk is what we should be having for Christmas dinner, perhaps even some goat cheese that the shepherds might have brought along with them. Christmas is about being together, celebrating the presence of each other, not the presents we buy for each other. It’s about giving your time and kindness, not whatever your bank account can afford. Besides, if there ever was a perfect time for the lavish goose or turkey dinner it should be during a birthday or a wedding!
- Christmas shopping – I don’t have a problem with gift giving per se, but I violently object to the gross and nauseating consumerism that takes place the weeks leading up to Christmas. If you want to give someone a gift and make them happy, or because you know they need it, why wait until Christmas to do so? There are 365 days in a year, why do we have to channel all our energies to one day? Give someone the gift of spontaneity, and for heavens sake don’t be limited by a box or what the consumer social norm is.
- Wreaths – before you pass judgement and think I have metamorphosed into a grinch, let me explain – I love wreaths, and as far as I’m concerned, we should have them all year round, regardless of what your preferred elements are. The smell of fresh pine is welcome any time of the year, and the charm of pine cones and dried fruits is timeless, or perhaps you have a stash of collectibles in your basement that can be turned into a wreath!
- Eggnog – this should be banned from the planet altogether, not just Christmas, but this is a personal preference. I cannot bring myself to appreciate this and for the life of me, never understood why eggnog is a Christmas drink.
- Christmas pudding – what on earth is wrong with making or having plum pudding at any other time of the year? If it is something that makes the family happy, or just you, then there is no time like the present to whip one up and celebrate. Have pity on the cooks during Christmas who are already saddled with all the other traditional dishes they have on the list and are expected to get right!
The older I get, the more I tend towards a simple, meaningful and peaceful Christmas. It is the ultimate fallacy to say that Christmas is the time to (over)indulge. It’s been a strange year and many have not found the Christmas spirit, so why torture ourselves even further with traditions that more obligation than joy?