While people in the Netherlands celebrate the 2nd day of Christmas with the other part of their families and listen to the Top 2000 on the radio (ending on the 31st), the party here in Slovakia is mostly over. People go to bars, eat the last cookies they baked and slowly prepare for the working life again. It’s white outside. My girlfriend’s grandma sat down next to me at the diner table to eat a slice of bread with liverwurst, which appears to me like a Dutch thing to do. Apparently they (we?) are not alone in that.
I was perhaps a bit cynical about this party yesterday. Not that I don’t mean what I said, I think that people who disagree with our customs have a point, but Christmas is about more than just consumption. Though I’ve always had a double feeling about the presents and the overfeeding, there is something cozy to it all.
Some go to church. They believe Jesus was born on the 25th. Possible. Is the big Christ the most important point of it? Perhaps. But the power of collective singing in a place with such great acoustics is certainly not to be underestimated either.
Some say it is the party of light. That they had to fuse that with Jesus to be able to sell it to the crowd. A transformation of the pagan midwinter celebration into something more institutionalizable. Ad a story to the custom of the tree with the lights and all layers of society are under your control. That this is what we celebrate every year.
Some say it’s a party of peace and charity. The dark days inspire them to think about people who are having a hard time outside in the cold. They toss them a coin, or even bring them into their house for a night. Cozy and warm. A Christmas Carol dates back to 1843.
But I think all agree it is a time for the family to be together, often in a space that is a little too small for all of them. A time to reconnect, fight over something insignificant, blame it on the past, preferably some deceased parent or grandparent and then hug it out. We’re humans after all, what could they have done better?
In where I’m from, wherever that is, I often hear people say that they’re glad it’s over. The responsibility was a burden upon them. But all of them secretly enjoyed it. Long for it again in the even darker days of January and February. All are a little melancholic when they sweep up the needles. Even if few admit it.