Christmas for many people is a time of coming together. Families travel sometimes over large distances to sit around a table, feast, exchange presents and generally celebrate.
These winter rituals are often founded on family traditions, and memories of happy Christmasses stretching back into childhood.
But what if your Christmas is not like that? What if your memories of Christmas are unhappy ones? What if your Christmas means loneliness, unhappiness, arguments, and reinforcing memories of family divisions? What then?
Perhaps you want to consider having an alternative Christmas.
Going back to our roots
Much of what we think of as being part and parcel of Christmas is actually based on pre-Christian pagan rituals.
Around Stonehenge archaeologists have uncovered several villages. By looking at the evidence left behind, a story emerges of people travelling from all over Britain, from as far away as Scotland, to gather together at particular times of the year. One of these special times was the Winter Solstice, and judging by the animal bones people left behind, this festival contained a spectacular feast.
These people were animal herders and farmers. For them the seasons and movement of the Sun was woven into everyday life. The Winter Solstice was important because it also marked the return of the Sun, and foretold the coming of Spring. It was in all likelihood not just a celebration; the ceremonies and rituals they performed were also meant to ensure the Sun's return.
You might like to recreate some of these elements in your own Winter Celebration,
Christmas is for children, isn't it?
This is something which I have often heard ~ mostly from my Mother to be fair. However, what if you are one of the growing number of adults who is childless?
Currently in the UK, around 1 in 5 women aged 45 and over are childless, either through choice or because they are involuntarily childless.
In fact Christmas has only recently become a child-centric affair. Medieval traditions for instance included feasting followed by a period of fasting; carol singing, although the style of these was unlike modern carols; and mummering, which was very much like the modern day 'trick or treat' except that plays were given instead of 'tricks'. All of these activities were carried out predominantly by adults.
And while Christmas can be a time which can painfully remind you of being childless, you also have a lot of freedom which people who have children don't. You might for instance think about,
What if Christmas is a lonely time?
While you might think this is something which typically affects older people. Age UK estimate that around 450,000 people aged over 65 will be facing Christmas alone this year. It is something which can affect people of all ages, as this YoungMinds article highlights.
Christmas is one of those times which is steeped not only with tradition, but also expectation. It's often a time when people do things because they feel they should.
A question I often ask is "Who says you should?"
Curiously it often turns out to be no-one. When my wife and I talk about what we are going to be doing for Christmas, the reaction usually is "Oh, I wish I could do that!"
The Athiests Guide to Christmas (2009), edited by Ariane Sherine