I was 18 and preparing to go home for my first holiday break from University. As an out-of state student in in Utah, I had the opportunity to meet people not much older (or even the same age as me) who were already married. In coming to know these newlyweds strangely close in age to me, I began to be educated about the important aspects of a wedded couple’s first Christmas: Declare which Christmas stocking was your’s, create and instigate a holiday routine- who’s house for which holiday, set up parameters regarding what constitutes a “family gift” (i.e. vacuums, Kitchen Aid mixers, electronic games and snow blowers do not count), etc.
But in the dozen years following my 18th year, I remained unmarried. Physical distance increased as I moved to find my own path, and growing systematically more tired of the politics and hurt feelings associated with familial “non-invitations” and “must-attend” obligations, I decided to liberate myself. Christmas day for me was spent in my own apartment, alone. I opened gifts from friends, had a good work out, caught up on movies, chatted for hours with single friends— often while wearing a face masque. It was my day to spoil myself and I loved it.
But then, I married. Not only that, I married an Australian. He nicknamed me spunky. And I moved to Australia. Though I had spent the majority of my adult Christmases alone, the advertised traditional trimmings changed from the northern hemisphere’s winter of roasted turkey and ham, warm socks and scarves to the southern hemisphere’s summer of iced soft drinks, BBQed prawns, SPF30+ sunscreen and beach gear.
And, like many other things, the forewarning I had at 18 to communicate my holiday expectations had long been forgotten.