It really is the most wonderful time of the year!
I have loved Christmas since I was a tiny girl, and now that I am a slightly bigger girl, my love is unchanged and can now go unchecked!
For so long Christmas included vast quantities of booze and for so long, without my realising it, alcohol was marring the magnificence of the festive season.
I thought Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without prosecco or gin and tonic, but really? I can assure you that as the small girl loving Christmas all the way up to 15 years old, alcohol had nothing to do with it that love!
And as I happily found out, when I quit drinking nearly 20 months ago, Christmas is still Christmas without the booze, and it really is the most wonderful time of the year!
So here for you now, in whatever stage of your life journey you are in, are my top 10 alcohol free reasons to love Christmas.
10) Community spirit
Although there is a lot of bad press about grumpy shoppers and fights over the last broccoli (yes, I have seen this!) there is also a huge feeling of coming together to celebrate. People feel more connected, as you do when you are in something together, and they start to feel more community minded, more generous and more aware of their fortunes compared to some people’s misfortunes.
Not surprising really, religious or not (and I have serious misgivings about the effect of religion), the message in nearly all religions is love, gratitude and looking after those less fortunate. Fitting then, that the will to look after others and be part of a community becomes more apparent in the build up to one of the biggest Christian festivals.
As most of us realise in our sober journey, community is the thing that eventually helps us to quit. People are more willing to chat, smile and be friendly at Christmas, so get smiling and chatting!
Being a part of a community is a magical feeing so grab onto it this Christmas time and just try to join in the alcohol-free community events!
Giving is a wonderful thing. Not only for the person who receives but for the person who does the giving. Who doesn’t feel warm and cosy inside knowing that they have made someone else happy by something they have done?
I love choosing presents that I know will make those I love happy. I choose them thinking about how they’ll use it, how much they will enjoy it, and loving the pleasure it will give them.
I love that there are far more ways to give back at Christmas, local charity boxes, food donations (horrible that we need so many of these) and many other ways of giving, become more apparent.
But it doesn’t have to be anything physical. Giving a smile to someone might make their day. Taking the time to say hello might make all the difference. Reaching out to someone struggling could mean everything for that person.
I read on my local community Facebook group a message from a man who has been homeless (now he has thankfully found a room), saying how grateful he was for all the people who had stopped to chat, buy him a drink or food and see how they could help. It is awesome that, in a world that can be so materialistic and so self-focused, this desire to help is still there.
Give yourself this Christmas, you might change someone’s future.
Whether we all complain about family, arguments and stress at Christmas time, there is still something wonderful about coming together and being together. It doesn’t have to be biological family, sometimes friends and the community you chose can be the family that is really good for you.
But coming together with the people you love, who love and support you is the most incredible feeling. This point is worth considering. Many people drink at Christmas to ‘get through’ family events of parties etc. If you are really coming together with the people who have your back, you shouldn’t need a drink to ‘get through it’. So if this is you’re reason for alcohol this Christmas, it might be worth reassessing the health of those relationships and considering what you could do in the new year to either improve those relationships or move away from them. Remember, you don’t HAVE to do anything, but in your sober life, you do HAVE to look after yourself.
For me, I adore decorating the house with my family, and I ruined it for years by drinking prosecco while doing it. I’d decorate but then I’d drink and become anxious, short tempered, stroppy and upset. Talk about ways to lose the joy! Now we decorate at the start of December and it is pure joy (topped off by watching Arthur Christmas!)
I also find that I can now bake with the children and make festive things without getting totally stressed out by it! Win win as far as I can tell
7) Dressing up
I for one adore dressing up! I have a cupboard full of evening dresses, sequins, and diamante jewellery. I think I should have been a princess!
I love that at Christmas everyone makes an effort. Whether it’s a Christmas jumper, Christmas hat, some Christmas earrings or a full on sequin party dress with matching shoes!
I got into the mindset that dressing up was only something I could do when I was drinking or going out somewhere (also usually involved drinking). I still find it hard to find dressy uppy occasions that aren’t party related, so Christmas is a fabulous excuse to dress up for a WHOLE MONTH!
6) The world sparkles
Not just the trees and sequin dresses sparkle at Christmas!
I love the frost that settles on the pavements or grass and sparkles like crystals in the moonlight. I love the frosty mist that hangs over the fields as I return from night shift. I love the clear cold air on a winter evening that is almost painful to breath in. If we’re very very lucky, there is the crunch and sparkle of freshly fallen snow (even if it only lasts a few hours!)
I have a tree at the bottom of my road that loses all its leaves in the winter but keeps its red apples. These apples are then covered in a crisscross of frosty flakes. I am amazed every time I walk past by what is basically a naturally decorated Christmas tree.
OMG the music!!
I mean what would Christmas be without music?
Christmas carols are my favourite. I go to as many Christmas carol events as I can find in my town, and usually drag the reluctant boys to all of them! We sing carols in churches, outside the local windmills, in the street, at home, in halls – anywhere I can! I was brought up singing the descant to most of the carols so every time I think I can get away with it I belt out the tops notes, however squeaky they might sound!
There I nothing that warms my heart more than watching my boys in their various Christmas services, concerts and plays. Even when half the children are out of tune and off time, their enthusiasm makes up for it. The older, super cool boys, even soften a bit when singing at Christmas. The toddlers are just too cute for words!
The Baby started December very grumpy with me as I wouldn’t play ‘his music’ in the car (little tyrant toddler anyone?!). But I couldn’t possibly miss out of the first playing of Fairytale of New York, the belting out of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas time’ or the shrieking top notes of ‘All I want for Christmas’. I love that the radio starts small and as Christmas gets closer, they play more and more Christmas songs. The baby has just about accepted it, 12 days in, and has even give his own rendition of ‘Jingle bells’ and ‘When Santa got stuck up the chimney’ as we drive.
My latest discovery, or rather My Love’s discovery, was last year during my first sober Christmas. We were embracing Hygge (cosiness) big time and he found videos on YouTube of crackling fireplaces, extremely effective despite how that may sound! Some of them have gentle Christmas Jazz playing over the top of the crackling logs. There is nothing cosier than snuggling under a warm blanket, by the light of the Christmas tree, some candles and the YouTube fire, with gentle Christmas Jazz playing. Try it, I promise it is wonderful and absolutely does not require alcohol!
4) Christmas Smells
I don’t care if these smells are real or artificially created by candles, it still works!
Real Christmas trees, which I don’t have at the minute as they aren’t very child friendly, smell amazing! So, I fully appreciate this smell with the real trees at my parents’ and sister’s house.
My favourite candle is the cinnamon Yankie Candle, as cinnamon is the most Christmassy smell.
Ginger bread smells, mince pie smells, baking smells, spiced coffee….mmm, just can’t get enough! It best when you have been outside in the freezing cold and you walk into your house to be hit by a wall of warmth and Christmas smells.
Smells and taste are so intrinsically linked that it’s almost impossible to write separately about these!
My first Greggs mince pie of the year is an occasion, and My Love scours the Greggs shops waiting for the first batch to come out – he really is amazing!
Coffee, hot chocolate, chai tea, My Love’s random collection of spicy Christmas teas – all so delicious.
Spiced cakes, gingerbread Christmas trees and chocolate. So hard to walk into the shop at the end of the street and not be tempted by some of their festive treats. Christmas is not a time for restraint!
It is a time for sharing food (not alcohol!) and the choices are fabulous! Every December we make a special trip to M&S and buy a meal to share with all their Christmassy bits like smoked salmon, prawn cocktail, bread, cheese and salad.
Don’t even get me started on the stews, vegetables, soups, breads and roasts that I crave at this time of year!
I was so worried about my first sober winter, as I am affected badly by seasonal affective disorder and I worried that it might tip me back into drinking. With the help of Hygge, I had an amazing winter! This year I had forgotten my tactics for last year and the SAD hit me badly because it was unexpected! But more on that in a future post.
Hygge is the Danish concept of cosiness. It’s about being together with people you love, doing things together, sharing food together, lighting candles, mood lighting, and warmth. Things that would be needed to survive a Danish winter!
For me it was everything mentioned above but also watching good films, taking time to read books, having a warm bath before bed and doing some Yoga by candle light in the evening.
Cosiness is an act of self-love and self-care because you are taking the time to do things that make you feel amazing and rejuvenate you so you can deal with the long cold dark winter.
Bring on the fluffy PJs, slippers and tea!
For more on being Hygge have a look at the book that saved me during my first sober winter!
1) Let there be light!
Oh, the lights, the colour, the magic!
In this cold dark season, what could possibly be better than warming it up with colourful bright pretty lights?
I have always loved walking or driving around when it’s dark and enjoying the decorations. Whether it is the lights on the houses or the trees on the street, the lights in town, the Christmas market lights or the glimpses on lights and Christmas trees in the windows of houses. It seems that more people are embracing the decoration of the outside of their houses and I thoroughly approve! (maybe not the inflatable Santas though!
I decorate our house to the max and it is the best feeling walking home from the bus or shop and seeing all warm colourful lights through the front window. I feel so insanely grateful for my home and family when I see it.
I have a multicoloured warm lights Christmas tree (don’t like the harsh LED bulbs that are most easily available – too cold!) so I have to seriously search for the ones I want which makes them more special! We have candles, pretty candles holders, fairy lights in all the house plants, beautiful wooden and German themed decorations. Everything we have has been bought with a special memory attached. My Christmas tree is full of decorations that my mother has bought me. She buys me one a year and the boys think they are the most precious ornaments and take great care of them (well maybe not The Baby!
As you may be able to tell, Christmas is my favourite time of year! I spoilt it for so long with alcohol and I am happy that I will never do that again.
There are so many reasons to love Christmas that have nothing to do with alcohol.
Find the reasons that you love Christmas, try some of the things above, decide what you want from your festive time and focus on that – forget what you normally do, or what you are expected to do – find what you love and do that!
At Christmas the world sparkles and so can you.