'I used to be the Christmas Grinch. Here’s why this year is different.'

Christmas is a tough subject for so many of us, myself included. 

Of course there are the family barbecues, and meticulously wrapped presents, and the feeling that naturally comes with the knowledge that most people, everywhere, are basking in the same profound love you are at that exact same moment. 

But unfortunately, there is a harsh reality too. Presents sweeping the bottom of a very real Christmas tree, the overwhelming giddiness that shocks your eyes open at 5:30am, and a feeling of family unified isn’t something all of us are lucky enough to experience.

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I was privileged enough to get both sides of this festive coin.

When I was younger, I was able to feel everything good that the holiday season brings. But with immense highs come seriously blowing lows. And unfortunately, my family fell victim to the latter version of the festive period for many years. 

So, it's easy to say I wasn’t always the Christmas Grinch. Opening presents was the sacred ritual. My parents gleefully watched over their morning cuppas while we tore through the dozens of presents sitting beneath the tree, just for us. 

No matter how expensive, or large, the gifts were - we still knew in our heart of hearts that we were the luckiest to have each other.

I truly, genuinely, wholeheartedly adored Christmas. 

But as many of us know, holiday cheer is like most emotions; it is entirely fleeting.

I turned 12, and mum said it wouldn’t be a big one this year. I swallowed down the guilty feeling of disappointment and nodded. There is always next year, right? 

Then I turned 13, and the joy that had once been found in family and gifts, slowly began to unravel. Aunties and uncles stopped turning up to the big events, cousins were busy, families moved, Grandma and Grandad told us they'd be out of the country for a funeral. 


Fourteen came and went, and my sister was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. We’d been at a summer church camp, when she began to lug around behind her friends. Limited food resources, 38 degree weather, low water supply, and my sister suffered. Still, I had urged her to stay. 

"Please don’t make mum drive three hours just to get you, you’re probably faking it."

Alas, she was not. And when I returned from the trip, my dad had told me if she had stayed, there was a real chance she could have died. Yeah, that put a major drain on our Christmas spirits. 

I turned 16, and I promised myself I didn’t care so much. But mum had done everything she could to make December 25 special. She handed our gifts to us in plastic bags. In it, was a brand new bronzer and moisturiser. I felt angry, for being a moody, selfish daughter who wanted more. I was disappointed in myself for even letting the thought cross my mind. 

My 18th year. Mum and dad have officially moved overseas while I carried out my university studies. With them, they took two suitcases filled with over 19 years of memories and my siblings. The Christmas tree we'd clung onto for almost two decades now sits defunct at a landfill in Western Sydney.

Fast forward four years, and I am living with my best friends. Christmas is a dreaded season. I don’t enjoy it, especially since it has been over a year since I last got to see my family in the flesh. My newborn niece is now a one-year-old who speaks and screams and runs faster than anyone who tries to catch her. She has a little sister now, and I missed her birth too. 

I’m not excited for Christmas, but my housemates are determined to make this year special since we're all stuck at home. 

They're faced with a complex issue though because everything about Christmas makes me glum. My favourite movie is The Grinch, not only because it is simply amazing, but for the fact it is unflinchingly honest about what the silly season is truly like. It's not fun, expensive, and a waste of my time.

The Grinch and Jim Carrey dressed as me. Image: Mamamia/Getty.


But this Christmas, they want a tree - a real one. 

I push back, but I am outnumbered and the sappy smell of wood and dying leaves quite literally haunts my nostrils for weeks. They’ve planned to open presents on December 24th. We share our gift ideas, and make an agreement on what we will all spend on each other this year. We’ve invited our closest friends over. It’s a party of seven, surrounded by delicious salads, glazed pork, fresh Yorkshire puddings (why did no one tell me this glorious food existed?!), along with homemade cheesecake and lemon tart. My friends present to me a hair straightener. Mine carked it a few months ago. They know me too well. 

'How I am celebrating Christmas this year'. Image: Supplied.

It's a slow realisation, but it hits me eventually the night before the 25th in 2020. Christmas really isn't that bad. Especially when you are lucky enough to have a stable income, a healthy living situation and a stubborn set of friends who refute any and all demands for a plastic tree from 'round the corner.


It's also the year it dawns on me that the ability to fully commit to 'Christmas cheer' is the ultimate privilege - one that too many people are not privy to.

This year, Australian families are on track to spend $1,232 just during the Christmas season alone. Altogether, that's an alarming $23.9 billion that's anticipated to be forked out during this period.

Countless families across the country are sprawling to figure out how to make this year special, with all the bells and whistles included. I would know, because a little over five years ago my family were the ones struggling to keep the lights on.

And of course, enjoying the holiday season is no easy feat. It’s months of work in the hopes that it will pay off, it’s the parent who took extra shifts so they could give their kids something special. It’s the one who rolled out of bed at 5.30 in the morning after meticulously wrapping presents three hours before. It’s the grandparents setting the dining table and getting the 'good' sausages for the fussy grandkids (that’s me, sorry grandma). 

It’s the countless families across the nation who have searched high and low, have bent backwards, and climbed steep mountains, just so their children can have a Christmas that feels right. 

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Christmas is no easy feat; in fact, it's a crap tonne of work. I wish it had dawned on me years ago just how lucky I was to have my family so close, to have anything handed to me at all and I wish it had hit me 10 years ago instead of just 12 months ago that I am pretty darn privileged to live the life I do.

So this year, instead of being the Christmas Grinch, I relented. I sneakily bought deer antlers for my cat. I giddily collected trinkets, and excitedly purchased sentimental knick knacks and gifts for family and friends. And I did it all with a smile on my face. 

Because maybe Christmas isn’t so bad, especially when I am lucky enough to still have a roof above my head, the ability to treat those I love and the privilege to spend time with the ones who mean most. 

That’s what it’s really all about, don’t you think? 

Feature Image: Mamamia / Getty.