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Happy Festivus!

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Rather than completely ignore Christmas, Amal Awad thinks that people who don’t celebrate should consider the bonuses to the season’s annual atmosphere.

(Image: Stockvault)
(Image: Stockvault)

Ah Christmas, also known as the “silly season”. It’s annoying to just about everyone for one reason or another. It’s like a Facebook acquaintance you can’t de-friend, but at the same time you wouldn’t want to spend time with him or her.

Shopping displays and jingles invade our malls well before the season begins. Everything shuts down on the actual day of Christmas, as though the world itself must be put on hold rather than simply be reduced to slow motion. And for those celebrating, forced family interactions are par for the course.

On the other side of eggnog-fuelled get-togethers are those of us who don’t celebrate, but nevertheless indirectly participate. It’s a day of celebration of nothing in particular. A day when we can’t do the normal public holiday things we’d like to do because nothing is open.

Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not, comes at a time when people are exhausted and probably losing faith in humanity after what feels like an endless, challenging year. We want to feel good, rested and hopeful about what’s to come, but if we hear Mariah Carey singing All I want for Christmas one more time...

Make no mistake, there are many things that make Christmas appealing. It’s a cosy, homey time, even in Australia where it’s summer and nothing resembles the snowy fields you see in North America and Europe.

As bad as the TV specials and movies are, who doesn’t love a good Santa flick? And at work, you’re usually roped into doing Kris Kingle (or Secret Santa), which means you will end up with at least one bargain store gift. I don’t know about you, but for my part, you can never have too many Santa mugs.

There are those winner-takes-all post-Christmas sales, which are a nightmare to navigate but can deliver some solid bargains. And darn it, even amid all the fluff and frustration of the holiday, people get caught up in an atmosphere of kindness and warmth, and you get excited that you survived the year of the [insert animal of the Chinese zodiac].

So while it can be a trying time for those who don’t even get the benefit of gift-exchange, there is so much win.

In that spirit, here’s my survival guide for Christmas, for those who don’t technically celebrate it.

There is always something open on Christmas Day, and once you find it, it will become an annual retreat. You see, modern society demands that people work all the time and never truly put their tools down. I imagine that in a decade or so, shopping centres will have relaxed rules and Boxing Day sales will be moved to Christmas Eve.

For me, it can be a cinema session in the afternoon, which I may or may not have done the year the film P.S. I Love You came out. In the last couple of years, a favourite café of mine has opened its doors on Christmas Day, so I take a book and settle in for a quiet time with real coffee, not that service station slop.

Staying in isn’t for suckers. The world is so much quieter on Christmas Day, and it’s a mood that extends to your apartment building or neighbourhood street. Stillness fills the air. Enjoy it from your humble abode, and take the time to catch up on every bad movie and TV show you want to watch. It’s guilt-free as well, because… Christmas, and because, well… Christmas. What happens on Christmas stays on Christmas.

Visit friends who do celebrate Christmas and participate in lunch, dinner or gift-giving. This may seem controversial to some, but when you think about it, these celebrations tend to be gatherings and a way to say to dear ones that “we survived another year and are still on speaking terms”. This is a good thing. And also, gifts and food. Lots and lots of food.

Celebrate “Festivus”. Every year, a couple of friends of mine hold a party on Christmas Day. They call it Festivus, in reference to the famous Seinfeld episode in which George Costanza talks about what Christmas means for the non-Christians of the world. It’s fun, familiar and a great way to catch up with people you like and care about but don’t get to see beyond Facebook and the occasional community event. And also, food.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to diversity, though I suspect for my friends it’s really more of an opportune time to get everyone together. Because on Christmas Day, there is nothing to do and nowhere to go, except McDonald’s, the cinema or a family picnic at the beach. Ipso facto, bring on Festivus!

As you can see, Christmas can be a time of fun and frolic for all. So don’t be a party pooper – see the upside to the silly season and make it an annual celebration of some kind, even if it’s not the sparkly-tree-gift-giving type of deal. That is, unless you live somewhere in the world with few people celebrating Christmas, thereby rendering 25 December a somewhat insignificant date.

To everyone else surrounded by tinsel but not celebrating, Happy Festivus!

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