Monday 23 September 2019

Lorraine Courtney: 'Stuff the turkey - get stuck into new Christmas 'traditions''

'Just over one in five people aged between 18 and 35 eats Christmas pudding nowadays, according to Tesco's 2018 Christmas report' (stock photo)
'Just over one in five people aged between 18 and 35 eats Christmas pudding nowadays, according to Tesco's 2018 Christmas report' (stock photo)
Lorraine Courtney

Lorraine Courtney

Traditions can have extraordinary power, making us think we can almost reach out and touch our great-great-grandmother. It can be reassuring to feel we are a link in the family necklace, with no beginning and no end. It's also no bad thing to let go of some forced traditions that don't fit our lives anymore.

Some Christmas traditions are dying out. Just over one in five people aged between 18 and 35 eats Christmas pudding nowadays, according to Tesco's 2018 Christmas report - we are eating panettone instead.

We're not disowning our childhood by breaking the traditions we grew up with, we're forging our own path and doing things that work for us.

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As much as we may want to hang onto rituals that made us feel safe and loved, time marches on and things change. Besides, the best traditions are the ones that seem a little bit weird, tweaked by a family's own unique spirit.

My mother strongly disapproves of early Christmas decorating. She has always refused to put up a thing until one second before midnight on the 24th. On the other hand, my generation tends to deck the halls with Christmas decorations for at least a month before the main day - with research finding most people now think the first of December is the earliest acceptable day to put up decorations.

Why not festoon your rented flat in flashing unicorn lights from early December? The sparkle is necessary in order to get us through a life that requires constant calls to the local TD about Nan's hip operation while being bombarded with Trump tweets and news alerts about Brexit.

Trying to make our celebrations plastic-free means knowing lots of other traditions we grew up with need changing.

Handmade ornaments are hung on whichever house plant is thriving. Gifts are no longer wrapped in colourful wrapping paper but are "experiences" instead, like tickets to summer concerts. We don't bother with hand-written cards but send them digitally. It saves time and trees.

Secret Santa is another brilliant idea we've come up with, designed to save us all from wasting money on presents for people we feel obliged to buy something for. All participants put their names in a hat and each picks out a name at random without revealing it to anyone else. Everyone then buys a present for the person they've chosen.

Rather than getting dressed up fancy for Christmas Day and spending the whole time trying not to ruin our best outfit, young people are more likely to throw on matching family pyjamas and spend the day lounging in cosy tartan.

The act of making an effort is the very antithesis of the festive period's appeal. Christmas is the one time of the year in which everyone is supposed to relax. We've worked hard all year and deserve time to recharge. There are other times of the year to wear that new dress.

Cooking traditions tended to get passed down from generation to generation -from time-tested dishes to gravy served in the antique gravy boat.

Snubbing the dry roast turkey nobody really likes and cooking a dinner that works for everyone is better than tradition though, and very few people genuinely like Brussels sprouts. Christmas dinner is so much nicer when you don't have turkey just because you're supposed to.

Christmas songs are more popular than ever with millennials. On streaming services like Spotify, classic Christmas offerings account for the heaviest airplay. You have full permission to loudly sing the lyrics to 'Last Christmas' at any time you feel the urge.

Now, there are most likely some Christmas fundamentalists out there opening the Quality Street and making their own eggnog. Lean into Christmas if you want. Celebrate it or don't, with friends and family or without. Eat a goose, eat a burrito, eat whatever. No one really cares.

That's why I love Christmas so much - there are so many ways of doing it, and no way is more valid than another. But I do hope you have a happy one.

Irish Independent

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