I often hear that Christmas is all about children. Children hanging their stockings, leaving out a mince pie for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph, opening their presents in a blizzard of torn wrapping paper, throwing epic, sugar-fuelled tantrums come 3pm.
Much of the Christmas run-up is geared towards children, from Santa’s grottos and letters to the North Pole to pantomimes and classic festive films. Children often become the focal point of Christmas Day as they unwrap gifts and delight over new toys. Festive adverts on television invariably feature families with children.
There’s also something about Christmas that seems to embolden those just desperate to know when you’re planning to have kids, because wouldn’t the day be just that bit more magical if a couple of toddlers were thrown into the mix?
I must disagree. Christmas can be equally wonderful without the aforementioned toddlers. Not every household will be filled with the dulcet tones of small children come Christmas Day. Not everyone can have kids, and not everyone wants them. Children probably aren’t in my future, and Christmas is still an absolute joy.
Sure, there’s no reason to listen out for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve anymore, and no present can top the Lego pirate ship I received in 1996. But being with family and friends, cooking, doing crafts, sharing food, choosing or making thoughtful gifts for the people I love and watching their faces light up as they open them – those are all moments to be cherished.
I don’t feel like I need children to find the festive season beautiful and special. For me, it’s about spending time with loved ones and making the people around me feel appreciated, regardless of their age. I want to surround my parents, grandparents, partner and friends with the warmth and love they so richly deserve, and that’s where I put my energy. Thanks to the pandemic, the last couple of years have been incredibly tough for so many people. We’re probably all in need of some festive comfort and joy, whether we’re very young or much older.
A child-free Christmas can also be quite freeing. There’s no pressure to get up at the crack of dawn to check whether Santa’s been or arrange the day around the needs of small children. It means you might have the opportunity to do things a bit differently, perhaps spending more time visiting housebound, elderly or disabled people who could use a bit of company, or giving your time to a service like Crisis, where volunteers provide homeless guests with hot food, clothing and wellbeing packs.
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I think we’re often faced with quite a narrow representation of what Christmas “should” look like in films and adverts: a nuclear family gathered around the dinner table or ripping open a pile of presents. The festive period looks completely different for many families, chosen or otherwise.
It should involve whoever you want it to, and if small children are not part of your Christmas by choice, there’s absolutely no reason to feel like you’re missing something vital or that there isn’t meaning to be found in your celebrations.
Children are great, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t feel bereft on Christmas Day without them. I quietly relish the festive season without coaxing bite-sized chunks of roast potato into the mouth of a chocolate-satiated toddler, or floods of tears before bedtime. The old Glen Campbell song says “Christmas is for children” – but I find it perfectly fulfilling without.