The Pret Christmas sandwich, “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses and getting a little choccie every day just for existing. There are plenty of reasons to love Christmas but on the flipside, there’s also having to buy craft beer for some guy called Matt in the office Secret Santa and another Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas special.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that some people choose to do away with Christmas altogether. Whether it’s because of religious beliefs, a work or family situation – or simply that they’d rather spend it doing something else – around 9 percent of us don’t celebrate Christmas at all. That said, despite only 38 percent of UK citizens identifying as Christian, skipping Jesus’ birthday drinks is still something of a taboo in this country.
We spoke to a few people who do just that, to find out why they prefer to spend the 25th of December like any other day.
“I actively seek to ruin it for others”
I think Christmas is not only a cash grab, but also something that a lot of people use to make themselves feel superior. It’s a season of disappointment and I strive to avoid it, and deter anyone from participating. I skip Christmas, and I have since I got my first job, because I never got what I wanted from my parents. I preferred working at the cinema on Christmas morning to not getting the Pokémon cards I asked for.
These days, I usually try and pick up as many shifts as I can at the cinema, where I’m now assistant manager, and I don’t attend a single party or gathering, even though my brother continues to pester me to do so.
In fact, not only do I pretend it doesn't exist, I also actively seek to ruin it for others by making offhand references in front of children about Santa not being real. My grandma once told me that I was "a little asshole” because I told her Santa was a sham. People seem to think I am a jerk but I’d rather spend my money on better things. Brendan.
“I’ll be volunteering in Calais with a few organisations providing aid to refugees”
Christmas used to be my favourite day of the year but I’m estranged from my family, so I haven’t been home for it since 2008. Over the past ten years, I’ve either stayed home or been invited to spend it with friends’ families. I really don’t like doing that though, it’s super awkward and doesn’t feel like I belong. I did celebrate last year after my flatmate convinced me to. We bought a tree and had some friends round. It still didn’t feel like a real Christmas because it was with friends but for once, it stopped me from being sad on Christmas Day.
This year, I’ve got a really good reason to avoid it though, as I’ll be volunteering in Calais with a few organisations providing aid to refugees. Since most people celebrate Christmas, they usually have less volunteers over the Christmas period, and I have some holiday to take so I thought I may as well put it to good use! Camille.
“It just reminds me how lonely I feel family-wise”
I did enjoy Christmas growing up, but my dad was often absent – he has always volunteered to work, I think to avoid family and all the hustle and bustle. As I’ve grown older, I’ve become overbearingly anxious as Christmas approaches. It just reminds me how lonely I feel family-wise, and how often I’ve been coerced into feeling guilty if I can’t buy presents for people or show up to family events. I tried forcing myself to get into the spirit this year by putting up a tree and decorating it, but it honestly looked like shit so I took it down and shoved it in the outhouse.
It's not even just Christmas Day that makes me feel like dog shit, it’s the whole period. I want to fall asleep after Halloween and wake up in the New Year. People react really badly when you tell them you’re not doing Christmas though, so this year I've really cut myself off to avoid Christmas coming up in conversation. I have a lot of unanswered messages from family and friends at the moment (sorry guys!) This is my first Christmas not living with or near family, so my plan is to spend it on my own watching nature documentaries on my projector with my electric blanket on. Lydia.
“It’s so bad for the environment”
It’s nice how everyone gets together for the Christmas holidays, but I think the celebration also contributes to a whole bunch of problems. It’s so bad for the environment, from the energy wasted covering everything in Christmas lights to the amount of un-recyclable shiny wrapping paper being chucked away for no good reason and the waste from all the unwanted gifts that get given (one of my friends gives me a pack of moisturisers every year that I end up never using.) My family lives in Turkey where most people don’t celebrate Christmas, so it’s quite easy for me to avoid it. I will join friends’ families if invited, but I haven’t done that for a few years now. Usually I’ll do a shift in the restaurant where I work, where I’ll be paid double and get a bottle of wine at the end of the shift. I’m not against Christmas fully, but I’d be a lot more comfortable doing it if gift giving wasn’t done so mindlessly! Deniz.
“I hate the fakeness. I see right through it”
I treat Christmas just like any other day. I'm not religious so that part of it means nothing to me, and apparently Jesus wasn't even born in December so the Christians have got that wrong. I made an effort when my kids were younger but now that they’ve left home I don’t bother anymore, apart from getting my grandson a present. I can't enjoy it because I feel so sorry for those that have nothing or no one. Also, I hate the fakeness – people being nice that aren't too nice the rest of the year. I see right through it. I don’t like all the forced fun either. If I had the money, I'd go somewhere hot, sit on the beach and just forget about it entirely. Jules.
“So many people ‘pop round’ to ‘say hello’ and I’m always longing for them to fuck off”
I’ve seemed to end up celebrating Christmas a bit in the last couple of years because my adopted son now has his own baby, so we do it for him despite my son being Muslim. Before that, I just got really fed up with the consumerism of it all, how everyone runs around like a headless chicken just buying everything. Also my house always seems to be full of people. My work involves a lot of talking to people who are not very well and I get really tired of talking and being around people. It gets worse at Christmas; so many people “pop round” to “say hello” and I’m always just longing for them to fuck off.
The first time I skipped Christmas was when my daughter went to go and see her dad instead. I thought, “How can I make this a positive?” so I decided to do something creative that I could totally immerse myself in. The first year I made myself a quilted coat. I’ve still got it, it’s really beautiful and looks amazing. Another year I did a big painting that’s on my living room wall. It’s a nice way of having some time for me and I have all these lovely things I’ve made to show for it too. Steph.
“Suicide rates soar at Christmas and the social pressure gets to a lot of people”
I love the build-up to Christmas – all the decorations, mulled wine, Christmas trees, carols and snow. I just find the actual day itself a bit challenging. I don't come from a particularly big or close family so I've never really had a big festive family Christmas. The day itself can bring to light what you lack and it can be quite hard. If I can, I’ll go to work on Christmas Day. A few years ago when I worked in a newspaper office, I ended up doing the night shift on Christmas Eve when George Michael died. I’d been expecting to have a quiet shift but his death was announced on the radio while I was in a taxi on the way to the office. I was working all night on my own and saw in Christmas in a surreal fashion, writing about George Michael's death.
Not doing Christmas is almost taboo – people can think you're a Scrooge or just odd, but suicide rates soar at Christmas and the social pressure gets to a lot of people. Zoe.
“The bar for what passes as good taste is considerably lowered over the festive season”
It’s hard to pinpoint what I hate about Christmas, but it seems to bring out the worst in society. Whether it’s the awful jumpers or the pressure to festoon family and friends with yet more unnecessary crap in false displays of affection, the bar for what passes as good taste is considerably lowered over the festive season. It’s as if the entire nation is suddenly visited by the spirit of Christmas and we miraculously rediscover our kinship. Give me a break – we’re just as bitter and divided as always. In fact more so when you throw in the shorter days, credit overdrafts, bad weather and train strikes that come around like clockwork at this time of year.
Normally at Christmas, I’d hole up in bed with a month’s supply of Pot Noodles and Cherry B, but I’m no longer a student so it may call for more drastic measures. A Chinese pupil I teach over Skype recently told me that having tried Christmas a few times, his family have decided it isn’t for them and they won’t bother this year. I think China might be the place for me. Orlando.
“I find Christmas with family boring and long”
I used to love Christmas when I was young. I’m not a total Scrooge, and I do like the food and drink, but I find Christmas with family boring and long – it usually ends up making me bitter and I hate the flashiness of it all. Instead I spend the holidays with my mates in London, usually at a warehouse gathering. We have dinner, go to the pub, get wrecked and then it descends into stuff that you can’t really tell your family about when they ask you how Christmas was.
Often when I tell people I’m not spending it with family they give me a sad look and ask if I’d like to eat with their family. That’s why I like spending it in the warehouses where there’s plenty of people in the same position. It’s fun, even if it is bittersweet. Georgia.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.