We don’t celebrate Christmas. Once upon a time, way back when Lucas’ and my relationship was still fresh and shiny, we used to exchange gifts at Christmas as many others do in the vein of non-religious celebration, but that was about it. As atheists, Christmas doesn’t really have a lot, if any, meaning for us. Years ago, while in a tight financial bind, we decided to do away with celebrating and gift-giving for non-birthday occasions like Valentine’s Day and Christmas and focused on birthdays and anniversaries (although we’ve since mostly done away with gifts for these latter occasions). After all, those are days very much mired in consumerism, aren’t they? Ha. And as we acquired a minimalist mentality, we didn’t want to subscribe to all that either.
Even with Raspberry’s presence, we haven’t really done anything Christmassy together, short of her sometimes receiving gifts from relatives and the occasional tree-decoration (not ours, as we’ve never had a space big enough for a tree, nor the desire to have one). For her, Christmas just means seeing places decorated with lights and trees, and a lot of people (mostly strangers) asking her if she’s excited for Father Christmas. She just looks at them blankly and then I explain that we don’t celebrate Christmas and then the asker looks a bit awkward and apologizes for some reason (really, how are you supposed to know that we don’t celebrate it?).
At the market we frequent twice weekly, one of the guys who works there gave Raspberry a present — a pink Disney princess bag and a mermaid Barbie doll. We may see him twice a week, but he doesn’t really know what she likes, so who can blame him for giving a typically feminine present to a little five-year-old? Had she been younger, I’d have stashed the gift away because I absolutely abhor both princesses and Barbies, but she’s old enough to decide what she’d like to go with her gift. Right from the get go, she didn’t seem too interested in the gift, despite not taking it out of the plastic bag. I think she’d peeked in there when it was given to her and had already seen it. Today, we brought it out and asked her what she thought. She was nonchalant about it, as I’d expected since we don’t do princesses at all (let alone the evil that are the Disney princesses) and she’s never cared much for dolls. We asked her what she’d like to do with the gift and she decided that she’d like to donate it to a charity shop, which is fine by me since I’m sure there are plenty of other kids who’d love it.
What Raspberry was excited about this Christmas was walking around the empty streets of the city centre. Last Christmas, I did that on my own and inevitably got lost not too far from my apartment (and started panicking a little as it was getting dark), because the city was still very new to me. This year, I thought Raspberry would like to come along and she seemed to like the thought that all the streets that are normally jam-packed with shopping crowds would be quiet, and that walking along the sidewalk, she wouldn’t have to swerve to avoid smokers. So after a late breakfast that was more like brunch, we bundled up even though it was 5°C and headed out. The shuttered stores were intriguing and I think she was amused by the fact that I could stand in the middle of a normally busy street to take pictures. She wanted to go to Lime Street station to see the trains but it was closed, which was surprising. Beyond a handful of open convenience stores and the Starbucks in Liverpool One, the city was pretty much shut down today. There seemed to be more people out this year than last though. Last year, I remember seeing some people out, most of them wielding their cameras like I was. This year, it was pretty much the same (cameras and maps this time), but there just seemed to be more. At one point, Raspberry commented that the absence of so many people was making her lonely. Around the same time she also declared her extremities were cold and achy, her stomach hurt, and she had to go pee. Admittedly, I was getting cold too, so I had no problem going home, even though I would’ve liked to have walked a little further (this is the same delusional thinking that six years ago, motivated me to go out into the icy streets of Ottawa about a week before my due date while I was pregnant with Raspberry; I only made it as far as the parking lot). But when you’re out with a small child with multiple complaints, it’s probably best to not be crazy, so we went home, where we had hot chocolate and Lucas had been hard at work making pulla, a Finnish coffee bread he so loves but has never made before. Add this to the fact that we had nachos for dinner, and it made for a pretty good day. It’d be nice to make the walk a tradition, since there’s nothing else really to do on Christmas, but we’ll have to take it as it comes and see what it’ll be like hauling two kids out on a potentially cold winter day to see quiet streets and shuttered stores. For now, having done it two years in a row, I’ll just call it a sorta tradition.