What Christmas means to me

Christmas is different for everyone. Some like to spend their Christmas day with their friends, some with their family, and some alone. Being from a Russian family, December 25th is like any other day for me- I do work, I read, and I scroll on Instagram for hours, just the lack of friends is different. Instead, we celebrate by the old Julian calendar, and so our Christmas is on January 7th. This proves difficult as for Christmas my family is usually at work or school, but we make do with what we can.

For our household, we celebrate new year as our main ‘Christmas’. At New year we receive presents from father Christmas, and not from family unless it’s a specific present for them (and usually if you’re younger). New year for our family is a big deal as it’s a fresh start and gives you the opportunity to change your ways for the better, but I guess that’s the deal for everyone else too. It means leaving the past in the past and saying this year I will do and be better. New year for our family means trying to see our extended family and catching up with them as work and school can get hectic for everyone. It’s a chance for everyone to come together and show each other that we still respect and love each other.

For us, moving to the UK was a very big change. I was introduced to the madness of western Christmas and the way that people swallow up Christmas like a happy pill. Its endless decorations, constantly spending that extra bit more money to make someone happier, and circles a lot around giving. I may have been too young to remember, but I feel as if back at home life was more reserved. The streets were still decorated, yes, and the Christmas adverts were on TV, but it was never a competition. It was never out-doing someone else for presents or think that other people’s decorations or dinners look worse. I feel a lot of the time I am made to feel bad for sticking to a present budget when someone goes over, or not being able to buy extravagant gifts for my family because I am at university.

For new year, my family and I cook enough to feed a small army. Meat, salads, different style potatoes, and plenty of desserts. This means that by the time Christmas comes around, we have either devoured it all or are still drowning in multiple plates of salad. For Christmas, we don’t usually go for another round of cooking. Usually we get a takeaway as everyone is celebrating and has no time to cook the same meal all over again when we had been eating it for a week already. Christmas day consists of the normal Christmas day, everyone sat downstairs and spending time together before we need to go back to work. We exchange personal presents, watch Christmas programmes and listen to Christmas music. We spend as much time as we can as a family as I am now away at university, so the time that I have with my family is very limited, which is why I’ve started treasuring it more.

To me, new year and Christmas are two different things. New year is a new opportunity, and even though I spend midnight with my family, I start new year with a bang by going out with my friends and celebrating with them. My friends count as my second family, as they are the ones that support me with things that you don’t necessarily talk to your parents about (such as egging you on to take another shot). My friends are like my second family, and because I am in a very tight knit group both at home and at university, I consider myself very lucky to have them, and so want to start my year with them too. New year means seeing extended family, and spending time with the people that were there for me most in the last year for luck in the following one.

Christmas, on the other hand, I can only seem to spend with my family. I hated being at school for Christmas as everyone always made a big deal of me being so different and being strange for coming in at Christmas, even though it’s something that I chose to do as a moody and selfish teenager. Now that I am away from my family for most of the year, I understand how valuable it is to have your family at your side, especially when not everyone has the same opportunity. The only opportunities I get to talk to my family at uni is a phone call from my mum every night, and texts from my brother as well as the occasional facetime. I am no longer taking my family for granted as I understand that life is unexpected, and anything can happen, and to tell your loved ones that you love them and appreciate all they do.

Overall, although I celebrate Christmas on a different day and eat different food, my values are all the same as everyone else’s. Christmas holds a special place in almost everyone’s heart for one reason or another, but these have been mine!

What are your new year / Christmas traditions?

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