Embracing the tinsel

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

It is that time of year again! The first of December, and you can now safely put your Christmas tree up without being officially described as "punchable'', writes Kate Oktay.

Kate Oktay
Kate Oktay

I have come full circle with Christmas, having gone from love to hate and now back to being annoyingly festive again, but Christmas is always enjoyed the most by the 4-11 age bracket.

As a child I would start getting excited by the possibility of Christmas around July, and by the time late December rolled around I would be fizzing with feverish excitement. It was the perfect day. My mother's year-long junk food ban was in moratorium with lollies for breakfast and all-day chocolate. Through some elvish clerical error I would make the good child list every year despite spending the previous three weeks hearing my parents yelling Santa-based threats through walls as I bounced joyfully on the bed at 9pm. And, of course, presents that I would furtively shake and paw at in the two-week lead-up every time my mother left the living room for more than three seconds.

As I grew older and coolness became more important, excitement about Christmas dulled. (This is not to say that I was cool, in fact from an outside, unbiased perspective I was definitely not cool, but I was trying very hard.) Also, unless you are completely unhinged, you become aware of the absolute naffness of Christmas music at around the same time you realise you are too old to canter around the front lawn pretending to be a horsie. Absolutely nothing makes you hate Christmas faster than last-minute panic shopping to the soundtrack of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

I was pretty meh on Christmas for a long time. It was when I was living in Turkey that my love for the festive season began flowering again. This was mostly due to the fact I am not a very nice person. Well, that and Fristmas.

Basically (and I would assert, because of the obvious superiority of our religious holiday), the Turks have taken all of the essential elements of Christmas and moved them to New Year while arguing that they are definitely not doing this.

Oh, look! A Christmas tree! I would exclaim. "Tsk, Kate, no not a Christmas tree. We are a Muslim country. We do not celebrate Christmas. This is a New Year's tree,'' they would say, as though they were explaining something very simple to a slow child. There were also New Year's presents, New Year's decorations and, in some households, Santa would arrive on New Year's Eve.

"This is not New Year's! Its Fake Christmas ... Fristmas!'' I would snap, feeling territorial over the stealing of my traditional celebration. "I'm not killing goats on the side of the road and telling everyone it's part of Queen's Birthday,'' I would tell my Turkish friends. This is the equivalent of an Australian telling us sheep jokes; a conversational clanger and only funny if you are the person saying it. This did not stop me saying it.

Feeling possessive (which is, admittedly, completely demented) over Christmas somehow reminded me of how much I liked it. There were a lot of good things - gluttony, family, morning drinking. Giving gifts that simultaneously make you "The Best Aunty Ever'' and also make parents seethe and grudgingly admire the new heights of terribleness you have managed to achieve. (Top tip: You can pick up tattoo pens for under $5 in LOADS of places around Dunedin.) I really started to throw myself back into Christmas. Lugging real trees indoors and following the "more is more'' rule of decorating. Six-week-long pudding preparation. All the good stuff.

There is the bad stuff, too, of course: insane commercialisation with all its added junk and plastic, Mariah Carey's Christmas album, anybody's Christmas album, the 12 for $6 Christmas crackers that your husband buys to keep expenses down. But like most of mainstream American-import cultural detritus, it is easily avoided. All you need are a few rules: children don't get 7000 Christmas presents they don't need, if you are just buying what is essentially rubbish for people then those people don't need presents and lastly, don't be a dick - pay $10 more and buy a free-range turkey.

Following these simple steps ensures you can have the sort of Christmas that you are supposed to have: a boozy feast and a good fight about politics with your elderly relatives that don't believe in climate change.

In fact, because of this very column I am guaranteed to have that sort of Christmas. I can already hear the muttering from farms further south ...

"Free-range turkeys and climate change ... Is this what I am going to have to read every fortnight?! Lefty twit.''

Ho, ho, ho, everybody.

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