I don’t do Christmas

That’s right – I don’t do Christmas.

But before you start feeling sorry for me, let me tell you that it’s not in a ‘bah humbug’ kind of way.  And I haven’t always been like this so let me explain why I don’t do Christmas.

Childhood Christmas

Of course, when I was a child, growing up in our family, we celebrated Christmas every year in Australia.

karen and i with father christmas
My sister and I (I’m the little one) in our obligatory annual Christmas photo

That meant lunches and dinners with extended family on the 25th and 26th December, a Christmas tree heavily decorated with both bought and homemade decorations, Christmas carols, Christmas parties, Christmas presents – well, you know what I mean.  They were absolutely normal, traditional, Australian Christmases.  And being Australian I even remember one year we had Christmas on the beach when my daughter was little.

So, I’m from a culture where Christmas is celebrated by almost everyone in the community.

And when I had my daughter we continued these traditions and had some very wonderful Christmases together with family and friends.

And there were presents. Lots of presents.  I think I tried to over-compensate for something because my daughter was thoroughly spoilt at Christmas time.  Every single time.

The presents under the tree every year formed a small mountain.  And as she was an only child, almost all of those presents were for her.

I’m sure she was happy about that.

Then she grew up and left home, so my Christmases became a little more low-key.  We still sometimes had lunches or dinners on Christmas day, and exchanged presents, but living without a child in the house was completely different.  I just didn’t feel the need to have a Christmas tree or decorations in the house.

Heading abroad to a new culture

I left Australia just a couple of days after Christmas, in 2006.  I don’t really remember much about that Christmas.  I was staying with my sister at the time and maybe she had a tree and maybe we exchanged presents (she had young children at the time), but I don’t really remember.

And if you know my story, you’ll know that I left Australia to go to live in Moscow, Russia.  And I arrived in Russia in January.

christmas in moscow
Moscow New Year celebrations – 15th December 2007

So, because I arrived in Russian in January, I had to wait almost a whole year to experience the fabulous ‘white Christmas’ that those of us who grow up in hot countries can only dream about.

The year passed, and during that time I learnt that Russians don’t celebrate our ‘western’ Christmas.  They celebrate Orthodox Christmas on 7th January – and it’s very low-key.

Their biggest party is New Year’s Eve.  That’s when it all happens.

New Year in Russia

They have New Year trees as you’ve probably seen in my post from a couple of years ago.  They give presents at New Year.  They have parties, drinking, fireworks, and everyone’s ready to be happy and celebrate together.

It’s a bit like ‘our’ Christmas, but just a little bit later. 

I must say, though, that the commercialism I see in Australia, and that I participated in by buying my daughter mountains of presents every year, doesn’t really exist in Russia.

new year moscow
Moscow 28th December 2019

Sure, they give presents in Russia, but from what I saw while I was there, people don’t go crazy in the shops before New Year.  There were not hordes of people in the shopping centres, filling up their trolleys with enormous amounts of presents and food.  It was quite low-key compared to what I used to see in Australia.

I don’t remember if my first 25th December in Russia was a white Christmas or not.  It was a working day so I was at work teaching.  We probably had a Christmas themed lesson, as we did these every year with our students.

Over the years in Russia, the 25th December Christmas became further and further from my life, and even though other foreign teachers in my school celebrated, I never did.  No tree.  No carols. And no presents.

Getting married didn’t change things

And then after a couple of years in Moscow I got married to Olivier.  And even though he’s French and not Russian, he also wasn’t really too interested in Christmas.  We’ve never exchanged presents at Christmas, not even the first one we spent together.

Living in Russia together for 10 years also meant that the traditional western Christmas was never really on our radar – it passed us by while we were concentrating on our jobs in the build-up to our New Year holiday plans.

moscow new year tree
New Year lights in Moscow stay up for a long time – 20th February 2020

Christmas in Bulgaria

And now, we live in Bulgaria.  It’s not Christmas yet, but from what I’ve heard, they celebrate on 25th December, just like we do in Australia.  There’s already plenty of Christmas decorations up in the town, in the streets, in people’s windows, and in the shops.

I’m not sure what we’re going to be doing on 25th December this year.  We may get together with some friends, either Bulgarian or foreigners, and have a little party – the first Christmas party I will experience in many, many years.

So, I’m not a ‘bah humbug I don’t do Christmas’ type of person, I’m a ‘my life has led me away from this holiday’ person, but it looks like things just might change this year.

The photo below was taken in the entrance of the building we currently live in. The tree is just about the right size for me.

tree in flat building
A very small Christmas tree

What about you?  Do you have big celebrations at Christmas time with lots of presents, or is your Christmas more low-key?  Or maybe you celebrate an Orthodox Christmas in January?  Let me know your Christmas plans in the comments below.

~ Cheryl

Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

10 thoughts on “I don’t do Christmas”

  1. Hi Cheryl – well, being an Aussie, we do the whole Christmas shebang on Dec 25-27 (it seems to stretch out more these days so the kids can slot us in somewhere). I must say that sometimes I’d be happy to put up one of those little white painted twigs with half a dozen baubles and call it quits, but with the grandgirls and family here it just wouldn’t feel “enough” so it might have to wait a few more years. We keep the presents fairly low key and the adults don’t buy for each other – but the g/rils definitely get a lot of stuff! Have a great non-Christmas and don’t forget to write that blog post about your new place – I’m fascinated to hear the story xx

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    1. Thanks Leanne, I always love seeing your comments here. I’m not sure I could handle a ‘normal’ Christmas – too much happening and too much excitement! But I’m glad that Christmas traditions are continuing in Australia. I do think it’s really important to pass down these traditions to our kids and grandkids. I’m sure you’ll have a great Christmas celebration this year, especially since so much time with family was lost this year. Have a lovely weekend, Leanne! xx

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    1. Hi Michele, I hadn’t thought that this post was a mini-bio – but I guess it is! I do hope to adopt some of the Bulgarian Christmas traditions so who knows – my future Christmas posts might be much more ‘Chrismassy’ than this one! Thanks for reading my post and commenting, it’s so nice to see you here. Have a lovely weekend – and Merry Christmas!

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  2. Hi Cheryl. I was reading your post to Tim and when I got to the last part with the photo of the little tree, and showed it to him, he laughed and said that you sounded just like me. Georgians also celebrate Christian Orthodox Christmas on January 7th. New Years is also a big celebration here in Georgia, with plenty of fireworks, starting now until after the 7th of January. We don’t celebrate Christmas like we used to when we had kids at home. The last big celebration we had was when Sarah was visiting us in Dijon, France, several years ago. We had a live tree, we exchanged gifts and enjoyed lots of great food. More recently, we prefer less commercialism and a more low key celebration. We won’t exchange gifts this year since we are putting everything we have into our apartment renovation. I’m glad you have some new friends in Bulgaria and that you’ll be able to enjoy some Christmas parties. Enjoy your holiday! xx

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    1. Hi Christina, I loved the New Year celebration at Christmas. There are so many traditions from that time that I just loved. In Russia the fireworks lasted well into the second half of January sometimes! So much fun seeing families with children in the yards letting them off – safely of course. Fireworks have been banned in Australia since I was small, or maybe even before I was born – I’m not sure – so we didn’t have this exciting activity. Here in Bulgaria, like in Russia and no doubt Georgia, there are all kinds of fireworks for sale in the supermarkets – I’m looking forward to Christmas and New Year in my new country! I hope you have a lovely New Year in Chiatura! xx

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  3. I came to thank you for your super interesting posts this last year and we are looking forward to what you share next year. We start January 8th.
    I also wanted to wish you and your husband a blessed Christmas time. We have very simple celebrations these days, I like to cook something different and nice, that is about it. In our hearts, we are thankful that the baby Jesus was God’s son and He accomplished what He came for.
    All the best and stay safe,
    Kathleen

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    1. Hello Kathleen, thank you for your lovely message. I also look forward to all the interesting posts to come in 2021. Thank you for hosting such an interesting link party, it’s one I really enjoy seeing every week.

      Sending you warm wishes also for the Christmas period. It’s a good time of year to remember our family and friends and to be thankful for all that we have been given in our lives. I think most of us, despite the perils of 2020, have blessed lives.
      Happy New Year, Kathleen, and take care.
      Cheryl

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  4. I hate that Christmas has become so commercialized. Seems most forget the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Thanks so much for linking up with me at the #UnlimitedMonthlyLinkParty 19, open until December 26 at 12:05 am. Shared on social media.

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    1. Hi Dee, I agree with you about the commercialisation of Christmas, it’s so unnecessary and even a little sad to see how things are these days. I feel good when I simplify my life, which includes removing the Western Christmas from my life. Wishing you and your family a lovely holiday season and all the best for 2021. Cheryl

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