A Very Maverick Christmas. “Sorry, I don’t do Xmas.” This statement always raises an eyebrow. As soon as I utter those words, I begin to wonder whether I’ve made a mistake. The look of obvious horror on their face makes me think that I shouldn’t have been so bold with my declaration.
To be honest ‘that’ statement isn’t even completely true. What I mean is, I don’t decorate my home, I don’t put up a tree, I never allowed my children to believe that Santa was real and, most alarmingly to others, I don’t buy Xmas presents, not even for my children.
The last two in that list cause people real concern. People suddenly fear for my children’s wellbeing. I can see for just a moment them considering whether they need to raise the alarm and report me for cruelty to children. But as my husband regularly reminds me; our children are extremely entitled (code for spoilt!). They do not want. Their cups runneth over with novelty consumer goods and fidget toys!
So, whilst I do not conform to some of the perceived Xmas norms, I do however enjoy a glass of Gluhwein at a chalet-style Xmas market, I love a good roast dinner (though I’m not a fan of minced pies or Xmas pud) and I will take the kids on the local Xmas train ride and probably to the panto too.
It still surprises me that in an era of apparent ‘wokeness’ and an understanding and commitment to EDI, that my stance on Xmas is met with pretty universal condemnation. People desperately look for a reason. They are even more disappointed to learn that there is no religious basis for my position on Xmas.
It is once again coming to that time of year when I must defend my beliefs. I will need to explain (repeatedly) why I won’t be taking part in the office secret Santa. (And no, there is no point trying to convince me that I should just take part to prove that I am a team player. I do not buy presents for my children; I am really not going to get you one!). I have lost count of how many times a well-meaning manager has pulled me aside and politely suggested that I just participate to fit in. For some reason, doing and thinking differently is considered a strength of mine until it comes to Xmas.
In my early career, the EDI manager for the team I was working in even initiated a ‘special’ gift for me, despite me having opted out of the secret Santa, which was a t-shirt emblazoned with the word SCROOGE across the chest that I was supposed to wear to the team Xmas meal (for a laugh apparently). The alarming part of that situation was that everyone, right up to the Executive Director, was in on the joke. My beliefs on Xmas were considered fair game.
When I have conversations with people of all faiths, they have never considered the option of not participating in the various office Xmas activities. They consider it part of the office environment and general team building. For many, as in general society, the religious connotations of Xmas are less prominent. Xmas is just something that you do and opting-out is something they’ve never really considered.
So, at Xmas I am usually just perceived as being difficult or a party pooper. This year, I am once again preparing for those conversations, for the disbelief, the teasing, the judgement. I am used to it now. But, I made a decision a long time ago not to get swept up in the consumerist elements of Xmas and instead to use the festive season as a reminder to spend time with loved ones. So yes, I will come to the dinner/drinks but that’s probably it. And at no point, even in my early career, did it ever cross my mind to compromise on my beliefs or to hide my difference. I guess I have always been a maverick in that regard.
My hope for this Xmas is that someone will surprise me and respond to my honest answer about what I’m getting my children for Xmas (spoiler alert: nothing!) or me declining to take part in secret Santa, with a simple “no problem, I respect your decision.” (Xmas is the time for miracles after all!). Inclusion, at its heart, is about accepting and respecting difference without that difference needing to be explained or justified.
So, if I see or speak to you over the period, I probably won’t wish you a Merry Xmas but rather a ‘Very Maverick Festive Season’.