The Beauty Of Having A Little Christmas

We’re conditioned to think of the festive season as a giant family gathering, which can feel isolating when you have a small family

via Hert Nicks / Pexels

Growing up, I always felt like my family did Christmas ‘wrong’. Watch any festive movie or TV show and you see a large family falling over themselves as they prepare to celebrate together, there’s shouting, there’s laughing, and there’s a lot of squeezing past one another at the kitchen table because there’s just so damn many of them.

Macaulay Culkin’s family was so big that they forgot him at home! Could you imagine! My Christmases couldn’t look more different, there’s no chance of me getting left behind when I account for half of my family. Most years, it’s just me, my Mam, and my brother.

My parents are divorced and I have an estranged relationship with my dad, my grandparents are sadly no longer with us, and our other relatives live too far away to spend the Christmas with us, so, it’s just three of us, and our dog. 

When it comes to this time of year, my brain can’t quite accept the ‘quality over quantity’ rhetoric. Of course, my friends who have large families at Christmas would tell me how stressful it was to have so many personalities under one roof, usually resulting in arguments, but I didn’t care, for me that seems all part and parcel of the festive spirit, I would jump at the chance to argue with a weird uncle as the sprouts are passed around.

On Christmas day I generally try to avoid social media, I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy when I see a picture of a big family with paper crowns on their heads and smiles on their faces as they squeeze onto the sofa. I often wonder what it’s like to have so many cousins that you have a ‘favourite’ one, or how it would feel to have so many family members at Christmas that you have to bring in fold-up seats from the shed just so everyone has a place to sit. 

With that all said, it’s not like my own, albeit quiet, Chrismasses aren’t filled with their own type of magic though. There are many perks when it comes to having a small family at Christmas too, and this festive period I want to focus on the positives.

There may only be a few of us but we have our own traditions, my mam buys me and my brother new pyjamas every year, which she gives us on Christmas Eve, and the feeling of slipping into fresh jammies after a shower as you hold a box of Cadbury’s Roses in one hand and a glass of Bailey’s in the other is unmatched, no matter how old you get.

On Christmas morning there’s no rush to get up and dressed, we usually lounge around in the aforementioned PJs for most of the morning, we exchange gifts while Rod Stewart ‘Christmas Live at Stirling Castle’ plays in the background (a tradition I’m responsible for because y’know, Rod is God), before heading out on a crisp walk with our dog.

The rest of the day is free to do what we want, which usually involves sitting around in comfy clothes while we watch Christmas episodes from our favourite TV shows, the last couple of years it’s been New Girl, and we prepare to eat dinner.

Although our Christmas is small, the one thing we’ve never held back on is food, there’s usually enough to feed an army, meaning we have leftovers for days, and anyone who knows what’s good for them will tell you that Christmas dinner on the 26th and 27th of December tastes infinitely better than dinner on the 25th. Christmas evening is usually rounded off with yet more food, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and a movie.

Although the day isn’t filled with board games and fighting over who cheated, the time is still special because it’s rare that we have nothing but time to dedicate to one another.

I rarely see my brother from one end of the week to the next as we’re both busy with work and our lives, and the stars would have to align for all three of us to sit down and watch a movie together, so having a few days every year where we have no choice but to spend it with one another is something I feel thankful for, even more so as I get older. 

This article originally appeared in the December 2023 issue of STELLAR magazine.