If you trade in trees and turkeys, I wish you a prosperous one. If you’re a Christian, I wish you a divine one. If you can’t get enough bling, I wish you a glittery one. If you like old movies, I wish you a nostalgic one. If you’re an extrovert, I wish you a carousing one. If you’re happy to devote hundreds of hours to food creation and consumption, I wish you a gastronomic one. If you’re skilled at shopping, at giving and/or receiving presents, I wish you a gratifying one. If you have children, or an uncomplicated relationship with your roots, I wish you a familial one (and if you don’t, you might appreciate this flash from Sarah Brentyn). If you appreciate being nudged to consider others less fortunate, I wish you a charitable one. If you’re getting to know a new partner, I wish you a romantic one. If you’re in need of a break from a hectic job, I wish you a tranquil one.
Part of the tension of Christmas – or sometimes the pleasure if you can come to a creative resolution – is different people wanting to mark it in different ways. If there are only two of you, who tend to agree on most of life’s big issues, it shouldn’t be complicated. But alas, Mr A and I are at opposite poles on the question of how best to not have Christmas. I’d prefer to put my boots and go tramping the hills, while he’d rather stay in his slippers with a mince pie in front of the telly. A little complicated when, celebrating our interconnectedness is, for me, one of the few interpretations of the season worth maintaining. But, hey, I can do that the rest of the year.
It would suit me fine to work over Christmas, although I’d never had the kind of job that demanded it. The year I began what was to become my second novel, Underneath, scheduled for publication next May, Mr A, who did have that kind of job as a theatre nurse, happened to be working a late shift. After a leisurely morning together, he went off to the hospital and I went off to the computer. I hope you don’t think me unfaithful, but I spent several productive and satisfying hours that day in the company of my narrator, Steve.
The more traditional family Christmas provides good fodder for novelists, tensions mounting among people unaccustomed to spending so much time together, which Anne Enright covers delightfully in The Green Road. Despite the hectic preparations, there’s a sense of the ordinary rules being relaxed around Christmas, something that leads to disaster for Stephen who takes this a step too far in Francesca Kay’s The Long Room. There’s also an article on the theme of Christmas chaos in last weekend’s Guardian.
Whatever form yours is taking, I wish you a good one; I’m sure my own aversion to the season won’t put you off.