The table looks gorgeous. The napkins have been carefully selected to make sure they match the Christmas tree — beautifully decorated, of course — and so we can wipe our hands in style after having devoured all the delicious foods. After all, it’s almost 2014; a new year in which we resolve to really get in shape, so it seems we’d better savour it while we can.
The perfect Christmas dinner
Everyone goes to so much trouble to organise the perfect Christmas dinner, because food seems to be the most important thing. People even follow diets to prepare for Christmas. People go wild because the new year is around the corner, meaning that they only have a few days left of snacking, eating carbs, and being able to sleep in instead of going to the gym first thing in the morning. Christmas appears to be about the food and for me, it certainly used to be that way.
When Christmas was fun
When I was a little kid, I loved the food and especially the “table grilling,” which is very popular in the Netherlands. The mini skillets or ceramic surfaces on which we could cook our own food were a lot of fun. I just kept eating and eating and eating. I loved to dip the pieces of chicken filet in homemade garlic sauce. The mini hamburgers in garlic sauce. The baguette in garlic sauce. I didn’t think about vegetables for a second, nor did I miss them. I didn’t worry about how much I ate — I just ate until I couldn’t eat any more and then had some dessert. Just like everyone else.
Everyone else is still doing that, enjoying the food to the max. It’s sort of socially accepted, almost expected, and this puts pressure on me. I’m scared that people will be disappointed, maybe even hurt if I don’t clean my plate with their carefully prepared meal. For years, Christmas was about counting how many pieces of meat I put on the ceramic plate during the table grilling, and how to consume as many veggies as possible. It was about counting how much the other people ate so I could make sure I’d eat less. This never allowed me to actually enjoy the food itself. I was so worried about how (un)healthy it was and when to exercise. While most people finally get to sit back, relax, and perhaps even be lazy when it’s Christmas, I was more stressed out than during any other time of the year. Christmas, to me, was equal to being out of control and becoming fat. Everything that made me feel bad.
What Christmas is about
Now I realise that Christmas is about so much more than food and learning to accept that I can’t be in control all the time. It’s about a beautifully decorated Christmas tree that gives you that typical Christmas feeling, the feeling you get when you are surrounded by your closest friends and family. It’s about finding someone the perfect personal gift and about spending time together. Yes, enjoying food is part of that, but it’s not what Christmas is really about. Not any more. I don’t want to eat more than I feel like having. I just want to be content, not only with the amount I consume, but with everything — being surrounded by people and the fact that Christmas is different from all the other days of the year and that I can relax like everyone else. Christmas is about fun, friends and family, and just a little bit about food.