It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like…

Here’s why our style columnist, Christopher Riley, has decided to go all in for Christmas this year.

Article by Christopher Riley

Photography by Kelly Sikkema.

I’ve never been much of a Christmas jumper kinda guy. There’s just something a little off-putting about being invited to a party only to be instructed to go out and spend money on a piece of clothing that you will likely never wear again. I’d love to say this is about me not wanting to engage in fast fashion, but really, that’s got nothing to do with it. I just don’t like them. There’s always the one joker who turns up with some ironic pun about Christmas that you have to pretend is funny, not to mention the fact you’ll spend most of the evening itching and/or sweating due to your poor choice of seasonal knitwear. I know – bah humbug indeed.

Beneath my sartorial skepticism lies a deep-seated contempt for tradition and organised fun. I’ve always been that way. If your invite involves a shopping list, a theme or any form of background information beyond simply showing up, I can assure you I will be busy on that day. And any other day for that matter. Christmas jumper parties, carol singing, decorating the house with lights only others can see: all this sits firmly in the no-fly zone for me. Sure, it’s not an attitude that has won me many friends but I’ve made my peace with that. That is, until this year. After having my daily routine and emotional stability tossed around by Covid for a few years, I can safely say I’m a changed man. Here’s why.

Like many people, I haven’t seen my family in over two years. Even for someone as cynical and grumpy as me, that’s been a challenge. The recent announcement of borders opening offered a brief moment of excitement before Omicron threw that into uncertainty. Now, we’re back in limbo and any thought of planning a trip to see family is shrouded in doubt and anxiety.

For me, this is the most insidious and lasting impact of the pandemic; the fact it has robbed us of hope. The future used to be this mythical place of opportunity and optimism; it was a blank canvas upon which we could paint our ambitions with complete abandon. Some of it might actually happen, some of it won’t. And that’s OK – after all, half the joy comes in anticipation. Now, we don’t even have that.

Photography by Kelly Sikkema.

Just as Scrooge had his miserly ways redeemed by visions of his former self, I’ve had an attitude adjustment of my own forced on me by the nightmarish vision that this state of limbo is not about to disappear any time soon. And so, in place of hope, we are forced to find joy. Scrap that, we are forced to create joy. That’s the plan for this Christmas and all others henceforth: shed the too-cool-for-school hang ups and embrace the festive season in all its glory.

To do this, an attitude adjustment is in order. Even though I’ve always considered myself a fan of Christmas, it’s all too often associated with the things I loathe rather than love. That negative lens needs to go. If people want to post their Christmas trees in October, good for them! When the next person claims their favourite Christmas song is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by The Pogues’, sure, I believe them.

Next on my commit-to-Christmas journey, I decided to buy a tree. Like the Christmas jumper this was another tradition I scorned for it’s list of minor grievances. Part of me was waiting until I had a family of my own so there’d be more presents to keep the tree company. But that’s future thinking; today we live in the now. I went out and purchased an albeit rather miniature version, before hastily decorating it with some lights and other kitschy objects. It’s somewhat out of place in my living room but that, as I’m learning, is not the point.

Because what these acts do is create a sense of community and tradition around which joy can orbit. There are those of us like my former self who treat them with suspicion and there are those of us who embrace them. I for one am decamping from the former to the latter group. After all, we no longer have the luxury of leaving our happiness until tomorrow.

But I’m still not wearing a Christmas jumper.