What Christmas means to me

Graphic shows a cracker being pulled and the Italian, French, Spanish and Japanese flags coming out of it. This is to represent Christmas in different cultures

A white banner with text that reads 'young people's voices'

Joyeux Noël to you all! I’m Didi! I’m 20 years old and in my last year of university! My future goals are becoming a school counsellor and owning a grumpy old cat.

What does Christmas mean?

Our interpretations of Christmas define the way we celebrate it!

The Congolese from the Democratic Republic hold very big musical evenings, starting from the creation, ending with the story of King Herod killing the baby boys. For others, it’s a time to gather around with friends and family, and have a relaxing holiday! Australia’s Christmas starts in the early summer holidays due to its hot climate. During this, they decorate their houses, sing carols featuring famous singers and even hold their own Christmas pageants! Personally, I’m not religious but I enjoy Christmas because it’s the time where everyone unites.

So what does Christmas mean to you? 

Early memories of Christmas in France

Celebrating Christmas in France was modest. The town was quite small and rural so it doesn’t carry the pizzazz London flaunts. It was charming; local businesses decorated, church bells ringing, and local residents wishing everyone Bonne Fêtes! I vividly remember La Fêtes des Rois; we would get these amazing Galette des Rois from the local bakery, and I swear I could feel my taste buds rejoicing. There would be these paper crowns inside! When the holidays passed, we would flaunt our newfound status around the playground.

When I moved to London, it was very surreal and intimidating. However, that dissipated when Christmas came. My family and I would often walk around Oxford Circus, following the decorative lights until we were exhausted. The commercial aspect was very explosive; advertisements for all things Christmas-related; food, decorations, songs, clothes… the list goes on. I stepped into Winter Wonderland.

Growing up

As a five-year-old, it was crucial to have everything prepped up for the perfect Christmas. Since our first Christmas would be in London, there would be no room for mistakes. That led to pestering my parents to buy all the brand-new exciting things my eyes would lie on. We were celebrating this the right way. As time went on, I spent more time with my newfound friends and attended social events! It was really exciting! I felt like this was what Christmas was all about. Pigging out on lots of sweets, playing fun Christmas games and most importantly, getting the coolest, biggest presents ever! 

The bigger, the better

My perspective on Christmas shifted to the commercial and aesthetics aspects, and it became prominent growing up. I’d remember seeing some of the neighbourhoods decorated with all these nice decorations and it was an isolating feeling. We had a lot of decorative equipment ourselves but I felt like it could never reach that point. Regardless, we became innovative with our resources. The results were awkward but the time spent together was admirable. Looking back at this experience, it felt quite surreal. It was one of the biggest things that shaped my identity. There was a time where I let the commercial aspect of Christmas consume my thoughts but I was just as excited to celebrate this with my friends and family; knowing that regardless of your appearance, your background and your abilities, you can still come together as one and celebrate. I learned to appreciate this unity and the amount of compassion it brings. 

Feeling lost

As I indulged in London, I increasingly felt disconnected from my French culture. While I gained things in London, I lost fragments of Paris. To this day, the only French thing we do is wish our relatives and friends “Bonne Fêtes/Joyeuses Fêtes” (Happy Holidays). It was especially hard during the holidays because the timings were different. The traditions and attitudes were different. There were attempts to integrate some French traditions but it felt so small and insignificant. 

Finding comfort in Spain’s Christmas

That perspective changed during primary school: Spanish lessons. 

Spanish lessons were really fun, but the highlight was the holiday seasons. My primary school teachers would often go out their way to prepare activities based on the Spanish holidays. They would have a mixture of English and Spanish songs playing in the background, have lots of fun activities and we were spoiled rotten with food. Celebrating Spanish culture the way we did brought lots of comfort. It showed me that though I may be far away from my home country, it was especially comforting to know that other countries make efforts to include other cultural celebrations into the mix. Christmas is still Christmas, no matter where you go.

These songs are stuck in my head to this day:

Jose Feliciano – Feliz Navidad (I Wanna Wish You A Merry Christmas) [HD] – YouTube

Boney M. – Feliz Navidad (Lyrics) – YouTube

Japan’s KFC Dinner

Christmas food was something I especially looked forward to. Turkey with roasted potatoes on the side, green veggies topped with gravy. Chocolate cake with custard to seal the deal too! This tradition became less important when I learned about Japan’s KFC dinner. I learned something new – Japan uses KFC as Christmas food, due to the fascinating story of Takeshi Okawara and “Kentucky Christmas.” Something clicked in my head. If traditional English dinner wasn’t doing it then there’s always KFC. Unhealthy but convenient. Since then, it’s been a tradition in my immediate family and close ones.

Conclusion

It’s strange recounting the ups and downs of the Christmas holidays but I’m so grateful for this journey. In the end, Christmas is what you make it out to be; a holiday, a religious experience, a party. The choice is yours. 

Glossary

La Fête de Rois = Feast of Kings
A festive event held on January 6th to celebrate the Epiphanie (meaning Epiphany, the Revelation). It celebrates the arrival of the Kings to baby Jesus.
Galette des Rois = King Cake
A popular French cake that celebrates the holiday of the Epiphany. It comes with a paper crown, rewarded for the person who finds the feve (a small figurine, a china bean, etc). Whoever finds it becomes a king/queen for a day.

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By Holly Turner

Updated on 03-Dec-2021

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