Christmas is now less than three weeks away, and the festive atmosphere is close to bubbling over with joy everywhere I go! With friends, family, random strangers all radiating festive cheer, it's difficult not feel infected by the yuletide spirit. I mean, have you been to the Christmas Markets here in Glasgow? I’m sure the Glasgow City Council finance team will have an aneurysm when that electricity bill comes in next quarter!
I have always adored Christmas, and have spoken briefly before about how magical the season is to me, from fairy lights, to glitter, to tinsel, to parties, to gloriously indulgent feasts!
Yet, over the past few years I haven’t celebrated Christmas quite as much as I did when I was living in Australia, and this is for a very simple reason:
Christmas isn’t easy when you have no family.
This will be my third Christmas here in Scotland, and my third Christmas without contact with my biological family.
The Last Christmas in Australia (2014)
In Australia I was always the Christmas Party planner for both my friends and family, and always had a beautifully decorated tree up on 1 December without fail. The Christmas of 2014 was no different, except my family insisted I spend the day with them – they would take over the meal planning and the cooking, and given I was about to relocate overseas, they’d make Christmas easy for me so I could focus on the move.
Unfortunately, Christmas Day was a disaster that saw my sister and I sharing a massive bottle of Vodka whilst watching The Sound of Music as fights were fought, tantrums thrown like empty bottles of JD against the sidewalk, and a dinner consisting of over cooked chicken breast and a packet salad...
It was my last Christmas in Australia, my last with my family, and my enthusiasm for Christmas, my festive spirit, was thoroughly dashed. It may sound dramatic, and I admit I am prone to hyperbole every now and then, but in this case, it was in all honesty, and without drama, an absolutely thoughtless and horrible day.
Two weeks later I was on a plane to London, and three months later I made the decision to remove my immediate family from my life. There was theft, lies and abuse involved and after three months of continuous vile diatribe being sent in my direction I made the choice to block them on all platforms.
Also, they ruined Christmas and that’s just unforgivable!
The Loneliest Christmas (2015)
My first Christmas in the UK, in Scotland, I was alone – I had no family, and only one friend that lived this far north, and I was in no place to crash another family’s Christmas festivities.
I had only left London less than a month before, leaving behind a physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive boyfriend. I was still recovering both physically and mentally from his abuse. By that point the bruises had faded for the most part, the scars not so much, and the psychological scarring was still very present.
In 2015, Christmas was spent alone in my flat, eating tacos and binge watching Parks and Rec.
There were no decorations, no cards.
Though, I did purchase one person a present – a young person who posted on Reddit that he was living in a hostel and would be alone for Christmas, and couldn’t even afford noodles on Christmas day, let alone a feast most others were writing about.
I bought him the ingredients for tacos, and a bottle of vodka. We met for the briefest of moments on Sauchiehall Street where I wished him a Merry Christmas and handed over the goods, before disappearing back into the deep, dark, Glasgow night.
That was my only festive cheer that year – knowing that I brought at least one person happiness was enough for me.
On Christmas Day itself, I did try to reach out to my father, whom I’ve always appreciated, yet received only more abuse from my mother.
I don’t even know if my father saw what I had written to him.
It does get easier... (2016)
Seven months after moving to Scotland I met Ben, and a month or so later we realised we weren’t just friends but something a little bit more special than that. The conversation actually went a little something like this:
Ben: You do realise this is a relationship. You can look at it any way you want, but it is a relationship.
Me: *panic attack*
Me: Ok, I guess you’re both right…
A few months later it was Christmas and by that point Ben and I had only been dating for 5 months. I had only met his family once, and was still wounded by both my experiences in London, and by my own family's continued attempts to attack me.
Not helping matters, at the time I was working 50 hour weeks, was so stressed my weight ballooned out enough to put Santa to shame, and Christmas crept up on me, with me barely even noticing it arrival.
There were no decorations at home, and cards were written out of societal propriety, rather than enthusiasm.
This would be my second Christmas away from Australia and without a family, and I won’t lie and pretend I didn’t spend the first half of the day in the company of my own tears whilst Ben attended Mass with the family. I had Maia for company, of course, but a cat can only do so much!
However, once his family arrived it was time to get cooking and I spent most of my afternoon sipping wine, and keeping myself distracted with turkey and roast potato, salting the gravy with my tears.
After all the food had been served and eaten it was time to actually participate in Christmas itself, which due to my anxiety, wasn’t the most comfortable. This family unit who I had spent very little time with were laughing and enjoying each other’s company – I felt like an intruder, a stranger watching their festivities from the outside in.
Yet, as the evening progressed I grew relaxed and started to enjoy myself (most likely thanks to the wine!) This is what a true family Christmas was like, something I hadn’t experienced in years with my own biological family. This was a group of people who despite their differences clearly loved and cared for each other.
Now, this is Family (2017)
This year we have a small tree in our flat (literally, a small conifer tree in a bright red pot), as well as a few Christmas prints here and there. I’ve pre-ordered all the food in the world, have bought everyone presents, and this weekend I’ll be writing out my Christmas cards not only to my friends, but to my business contacts as well – not because I have to, but because I want to.
I’ve already watched Love Actually once, and was only denied a second watching as I don’t know the PIN to our SKY Cinema!
Christmas Eve we (Ben, Maia and myself) will be heading to Ben’s family home to ensure we all wake up on Christmas day together as a family. I won’t be attending Mass this year, but I will be joining them to visit uncles and cousins, before getting my Kitchen on.
It is inevitable that I will feel a little bit sad and lonely on Christmas, due to everything I have been through with my own family, but, and this is a big “but” – family, true family, is not biological, especially at Christmas.
Finding a family for Christmas
True family is who you want to spend Christmas with, the people you love and who you want to spend the most beautiful day of the year with. They may be friends, or partners, aunts, uncles, or cousins, but if you care for them and look forward to seeing their smiles on Christmas day – that’s your family.
I may be what is considered a Christmas orphan, being an immigrant and estranged from my mother, father, brother and sister Thankfully though, despite everything, I’ve been adopted into a beautiful and loving family who I can’t wait to spend the festive season with.
If you know anyone who is going to be alone this Christmas, please do invite them into your family for the day. They may say no out of pride, or may not want to "intrude", but Christmas is a time for family and if you can give someone a family, if only for a day, well, what better gift to give than the gift of love?
xx Bry Jaimea