Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

My recurring nightmare before Christmas



It's hustle and bustle and bells ring-a-linging. It's trying to still be bare-minimum nice after you've checked every Kris Kringle twice, because your brain has been cooked to a cheery crisp.

Close up of Christmas treeIt is trying to be festive while investing in your self-care and need for rest — while feeling like you're straddling two runaway sleighs careening side by side towards Christmas day. Ah, Christmas time. Aren't we blessed?

It is having the same carol in your head for days on end. It is feeling stressed about money, feeling guilt about everyone else being more prepared than you with more thoughtful gifts and nice wrapping paper to boot.

Or is it balancing all of the opinions weighed in, weighing the mood down, about Christmas or gift-giving or religion or family or drinking alcohol or who owes who?

Maybe it is trying to beat the queue by adding to the never-ending queue you've been keeping in your head — This needs to be done before that, otherwise I won't be able to get that done for this ... It is being stuck behind those gross other shoppers, clamouring and clambering, who are here for the exact same reasons as you.

We are to love one and all with great warmth and joy, and let that Christmas cheer seep through our pores, among our communities and into our plastic cups of super-strong punch. When actually the crowds and the songs and the crazy social schedule and the expectations all amount to a mountain of misanthropic feelings so great, it threatens to break through those flimsy social mores.

I look at those who can't get enough Christmas sentiment and stimulation. Who crave the tidal wave of tinsel, trifles, and tiresome tacky tunes — they crave these to the same degree I crave a quiet night on the couch. I wish I could be like them, feeling, well, like all their Christmases have come at once. [God no, please, never]


"As the first carol filters into my ears with a familiar forcefulness, I recoil, and flat-out refuse to feel like it's Christmas until the time comes when I can't deny it anymore."


I don't so much hate this Christmassy time of year — rather I feel perennially punished by it. Taken jolly, holly hostage. A Christ-mass of such seeming weight I must run faster and faster ahead to not be crushed under its heel.

For me, for the last seven years, Christmas has meant travel. Arriving well and truly tuckered out from not just the drive but from another year. Draining the fuel tank both literally and figuratively, to arrive unfailingly where I am expected to be.

Without the drain of presents, I wonder if I could more easily give the gift of my genuine presence. And, if I did not have to be physically present, would I be better able to fit in the in-joy-meant of picking out presents for people I love.

Individual aspects of Christmas, on their own, are each lovely things — it is the inundation that makes grinches out of the good among us, I swear.

Each festive season I make a little promise that in the new year, I will chip away at the preparations earlier. I mentally start organising how I might be more organised about getting organised sooner next time. The next year, as the first carol filters into my ears with a familiar forcefulness, I recoil, and flat-out refuse to feel like it's Christmas until the time comes when I can't deny it anymore.

I do like seeing my loved ones, I do enjoy giving thoughtful gifts. I like good food and drink, and I love singing with people. It's just that I end up totally ga-ga by the time we all stumble over that finish line, sun-fried and festively-plump. Bloated with stimulation and expectation.

I limp past mountains of wrapping paper first, then stumble over the exhausted bodies of whoever — bless their souls — agreed to host the whole crazy affair that year.

Eventually, like nearly everyone else, we all collapse in a semi-conscious heap and steal a fitful rest — with the bells still well and truly ring-a-linging in our ears.

Then I pick myself up in time to travel home and head back to work.

One day maybe I'll work out how to take the enormous weight out of this en masse Christ-mass. But not this year, it seems.



Megan GrahamMegan Graham is a Melbourne based writer.

Topic tags: Megan Graham, Christmas



submit a comment

Existing comments

Last year I hosted Christmas and my son-in-law forgot to bring the portable rotisserie and, later, emptied my small fridge in the laundry of food to place liquid refreshment therein. We had a bit of a falling out. Twelve months later we are friends again and I'm going to his house. I've bought him a lovely gift. He deserves it.

Pam | 19 December 2017  

What lovely, apt writing: 'Taken jolly, holly hostage. A Christ-mass of such seeming weight I must run faster and faster ahead to not be crushed under its heel...' Although I am somewhat energised by the seasonal sentiments, and I love a crowd, I can relate, Megan. I come from a faith tradition where playing and singing carols in and out of doors is a Sisyphean task. The sooner we are in New Year's Eve mode, the more sane I will feel. Merry almost Christmas !

Barry Gittins | 19 December 2017  

If we could only celebrate Christmas for what it really is about – the Incarnation. It has nothing to do with baby boys, angels, snow, presents, donkeys,? cribs, Carols by Candlelight etc. After all, is it not the, albeit difficult theological belief by our Christian faith, that God, through Christ, became a human being and lived among us. Through his death and resurrection humanity is redeemed and, through our baptism, we enter into Christ’s death and resurrection and are born to eternal life. Difficult stuff, I agree. Good reason for celebration yes, but a long way from what we do at Christmas.

Thomas Amory | 19 December 2017  

Don't forget to take the gift, Pam! And stay away from the fridge!

john frawley | 20 December 2017  

Ha. Will do, John.

Pam | 21 December 2017  

An interesting article, which tells us some rather pleasant things about you, Megan, the most important of which is that you want to make others happy. There is tremendous pressure out there from the commercial sector to spend, spend, spend which takes away from the real raison d'etre of Christmas, but you seem to know what that purpose is, so a cute little sermonette from me, or anyone else, to supposedly 'inform' you, or others about 'what Christmas is really about' would be both wildly inappropriate and terribly impertinent. The best thing you can give others is yourself. That is why family and friends gather on the day. Admittedly, there are some atrocious family Christmases, but I think that is due to those particular families, who are full of really dysfunctional individuals, who have no idea of what this, originally religious, feast is about. There are also many lonely, homeless and destitute people around. A friend of mine in London, who has been seriously ill for years, will be helping to serve some of these Christmas dinner when she could be comfortably at home feeling sorry for herself.

Edward Fido | 21 December 2017  

I love the sentence 'I don't so much hate this Christmassy time of year — rather I feel perennially punished by it.' You evoke it so well! I am still schlepping around feeling guilty about not replying to any of the Christmas cards from more organised humans than I am...

Julie Perrin | 23 January 2018  

Similar Articles

Sharpen your ears to soul

  • Sean O'Carroll
  • 11 December 2017

And hear God dropping pins, like tropical rain; torrential.


Reckoning with abuse in the Australian arts

  • Neve Mahoney
  • 13 December 2017

The results of recent surveys concerning sexual assault and harassment in the Australian arts are appalling. Post-Weinstein, this feels like a reckoning of the creative industries. Despite the increased awareness, many are asking how we can possibly change the entrenched culture of harassment and discrimination.