Wrestling for meaning after Christmas

Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh reflects on the significance of the stress that comes with shopping at the end of the festive period


“I took part in the Boxing Day Sales this year… on Christmas Day”

Today is the day we’re traditionally meant to take down the Christmas decorations we were once so worried about. When I was 11 years old, my cousin gave me one sage piece of advice, “enjoy Christmas this year Sorcha, every year after Santa it just gets more progressively shit.”

I remember wondering what my cousin meant by that. Then, as quick as he dropped the bomb, he left the room. I wanted to ask him what he meant. Yet all he left behind, was a shrivelled purple paper crown. It’s been 10 years since I last put out milk and cookies for Santa.

Now, I rotate yearly between a love and disdain for the holiday while maintaining a steady flow of mind-numbing stress.

Everyone always wonders how a holiday so pure in meaning went so painfully wrong. Christmas is, thankfully, no longer exclusively defined by Christianity. Today universal meanings, of quality time spent with family and a universal day of rest and feasting, take precedence.

However when you google “Christmas”, John Lewis and their Christmas bonanza is top, pipped to the number one spot by the “Christmas” Wikipedia page. This is the unfortunate dichotomy of Christmas for many: the romantic tradition versus the “buy buy buy” pressures associated with huge extended family.

It’s not until today, the sixth of January, that many of us finally realise the true meaning of Christmas. As you sit and munch on the last mince pie in the out of date box you realise how silly you were. All your faffing and worrying about mum’s friend’s daughter’s friend and how to respond to that unannounced bottle of wine seems silly.

You’re very enlightened and you decide next year you shall do things differently. Next year, everyone, whether 3 or 83, will be getting a tree to plant in their backyard. Maybe a theoretical one planted somewhere in the world by Trocaire.

But come November 31st, the reset button will be inevitably hit as you remember the nice hamper of jams that cousin you met once at a funeral gifted you last year. The guilt of returning that gesture with a theoretical tree hits home and you download SantaSack to your iPhone and get your debit card on the go.

I took part in the Boxing Day Sales this year… on Christmas Day. Yes, you can now do your Boxing Day sales shopping… online on Christmas Day. I was ashamed of myself but it didn’t stop me. I’m a huge traditionalist and Christmas romantic. I read A Christmas Carol in time for the 24th every year and run around Dublin every year to choose my favourite Christmas lights.

Yet this year at 12p.m., after the initial hubub of Christmas morning, I found myself lazing on the sofa unoccupied and scrolling through my phone. I had three new gift sets of makeup and soap stuff at my feet. For the life of me, I don’t understand why but I still bought a Ted Baker Lips and Tips kit from Boots, half price because I thought it was good value?

As my card balance came in this morning, I realised the Christmas cash rush doesn’t end at Christmas. After all the hundreds of euros spent on everyone else for Christmas, another hundred for the stuff I didn’t quite get can be spent on me… on Christmas Day.

Since I stopped believing in the idea of getting something just for being nice, every year has been a growing race to get, spend and splurge. I have to match what Auntie Mary got Mum last year but minus 5 euro because I’m a student and I guess I haven’t seen her in a while… but doesn’t that mean I should spend more?

In this busy world, it seems easier and sufficient to replace thought and human interaction with a monetary value. And we can criticise it but every year we do it, and next year we’ll do it again. There will always be a secret santa where you’ll thoughtlessly spend over budget on just so you can hide the fact you don’t know the person at all.  A huge majority are already doing it and getting ahead of the herd.

Unlike my cousin, I don’t entirely believe that Christmas has gotten worse every year. I believe it’s just very different. Maybe I’m a sap, but in my heart of hearts, I believe you can still create that same Santa magic with the right people gathered around the right Turkey or vegan-friendly roast.

Yet if you can avoid the magic-hampering stress-inducing consumerism that manages to annually bookend the holiday, I salute you.

Tomorrow, I’m going into town with my mum to wrestle a fellow bargain hunter for a new half price Christmas tree.

Sorcha Ní Cheallaigh

Sorcha is a Junior Sophister English student. She is currently managing editor for tn2, and a staff writer for Trinity News.