Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Not a must-read for the joy-filled

Christmas is a great strain. I think it is made worse, being in Hong Kong.

In England, I can see the point. The lights and the tinsel are needed, because a December mid-winter is damn dark and cold. We have to bring sparkle into the bleak somehow.

Straight off, don't tell me to do it with the Christian. I am a gal of human blood, gristle and bone; earth, light and dark. This winter festival comes from feeding need. But I don't mind the religious believers overlaying my primitive with fine spiritual sentiments and the loveliest language, of course not. I'll get in on the act myself if it means I can take a time to join them, and listen to the music inspired by their devotions.

I believe it's basic fire and warmth which keep the cold from taking the hardest toll. And we can hope a bit of glam might bring anticipation; perhaps we could have rewards after all, even though in reality most of life outside looks dead and done for.

Show a few pin pricks of light, and we might also enjoy our imaginations. We can grow stories from dark places in long nights. For that, bring company, and add some over-eating to remind our bodies of human satisfaction.

Full stomachs, warm toes, shared minds, all safeguards in the moment against the lean months ahead, and yes, I can see the point of Christmas in dark, cold England.

But I am out here, and denied my December England. I don't have the props. No dark and starry nights, foot-stomping in frost, or winter breath showing me undeniable evidence before my very eyes. The weather in sub-tropics Hong Kong is lukewarm sunny, like an early English summer. The people stroll by in shorts, no-one looks to their own breath, and there are no hearths.

I can't give myself up to any widespread self-deception, either, as I can do in England. Few of the traders around us share this festival, so there's no cultural conspiracy which I can look to, to sweep me along. The shops will stay open throughout, the Christian families take their observations seriously, and the retail experience is just that. Christmas comes fast in the sales opportunity calender of round-the-world retail festivals, just after the Golden month, Hallowe'en and before the New Year.

I am left then, with a denuded Christmas of one plastic tree, 24 dented baubles and three strings of lurid tinsel.

But because I have an imagination and a bottle of sherry, I'm thinking up means to make one or two days more special than the rest. I will enjoy watching the children be delighted by chocolate and puzzles.

And I know, on peering into her stocking, Tiger won't ask, like me, What is the point? Well, I'm opening the sherry because we all made it through another year. And look, even though I am not in England, I'm still alive! That has got to be worth a moment of reflection. Please don't blow it to tell me otherwise.


sharon said...

I know exactly what you mean. It's going to be approx 28C here which is actually on the cool side for a Western Australian Xmas. Our tree was finally lifted from its box and decorated today but even with the blinds drawn looks weak and ineffectual. The refrigerator is full of festive fare - although the cherries, peaches and melons are at odds with the ritual craving for satsumas and fresh chestnuts. Parcels are wrapped and ready. One son has returned to the nest. Multiple phone calls to family and friends in the UK have been arranged and timings synchronised - but it sure doesn't 'feel' like Christmas.

And possibly worst of all? My current drug regime does not allow for even a tiny glass of anything stronger than cordial! Caffeinated coffee will be the most exciting beverage for me.

Will be thinking of you tomorrow and commiserating ;-)

Nora said...

I had a hard time celebrating Christmas in sunny Southern California. It mever felt right. It felt artificial. The size and abundance of the tree made no difference. Now I do miss the climate as I sit here in the dark and cold winter without a tree all by myself. You should be careful what you wish for and enjoy what you have. XOX