We’ve all heard the lyrics to “Last Christmas,”

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart,

But the very next day, you gave it away,

This year, to save me from tears,

I'll give it to someone special.

In this case, the songwriter probably was referring to somebody’s romantic story and how they got their heart broken, and that next Christmas they will give their love to somebody who will really appreciate it.

The same words could be applied to the Christmas family adventures that almost everybody on this planet goes through–except that after the humiliation we experience during this “magical time of the year,” we still return to the same people who gave it to us the following Christmas, instead of looking for “someone special” who will actually appreciate it. Am I right?

So, if this is the case for most of us, sufferers, victims of the circumstances, why do we keep on doing it EVERY single year?

Now, since we are already warmed up with the Christmas mood, let me tell you a Christmas carol. Warning: it has nothing to do with a stingy person, realizing how awful he’s been, and changing for the better in the end. No, no, no. Just have patience and read along.

It’s the morning of the day before Christmas in Bulgaria (by some coincidence, I, just like the main heroine in this story, also come from there). People start getting ready for the night because usually Bulgarians, as well as a lot of Europeans, celebrate on both the 24th and the 25th big time.

Our main heroine, let’s call her…Nina, wakes up ready to have breakfast and watch Christmas movies all day long before the big delicious dinner is ready.

It’s 9 am. Nina enters the kitchen and sees her grandma already covered with flour, preparing the traditional bread she will make later. She has turned on the TV very loud, and at the same time she’s trying to outcry it with shouting at Nona–oh, my bad–at Nina, “Why are you so late! Grab your apron and come help me!”

So the cooking begins: stuffed cabbage with rice, stuffed peppers with beans…Basically every vegetable that can be stuffed. There is also the traditional round bread I mentioned before, the yogurt and cucumber salad called “snow-white,” as well as roasted pumpkin with honey and walnuts.

feast, platter, spread, meat
Nona Bankova

On the 24th, according to the Orthodox Christian tradition, people shouldn’t eat animal products. Consequently, everything that is prepared for the evening’s feast should be vegan (which is very strange for a country whose people think that vegans are some kind tribe in a foreign country).

The cooking continues; Nina’s grandma is shouting, cursing, and throwing every object she’s cooking with at our heroine, still to the background of the blasting TV. In the meantime, Nina’s mom, incapable of even frying an egg for herself without burning it, just sits in the kitchen and drinks her wine…AS EVERYBODY SHOULD BE DOING ON THIS DAY. Smart woman.

When everything is ready around 8 pm (yes! 11 hours, your math is correct!), Nina’s uncle and aunt come, as well as some other family members whose roles aren’t so important for the story (and also I just don’t remember their names so well).

The whole family sits around the table. They talk, eat, and drink. The talking becomes louder with each drunken glass of wine. And what could be sweeter than getting “constructive” criticism by your own family just before Jesus is resurrected?

“How’s school going dear, are your grades still average? Have you put on weight? When are you going to find a boyfriend finally? Or guys don’t really like you yet? Why are you so quiet?”

Well uncle, I’m still “average” at school, thank you for asking. I’ve started calculating whether I’ll be able to pay for myself if I just quit school and start working as a server/stripper/anything with tips; and yes, family-member-whose-name-I-don’t-know, I have indeed put on a little weight because of people like you who bore me to death and leave me with nothing else to do but to eat; and I have more than one boyfriend right now, nothing serious, just for fun–but I don’t want these fine gentlemen to get mentally traumatized by you, so you will never meet them; and I’m quiet because you’re talking about somebody’s alcoholic son, or praising another individual’s racist comment, and that is not OK.

It’s 11:55 PM, close to midnight–almost time to open the presents! The best part of the night. People are drunk enough to be nicer and happier, anticipating to see what other members of the fam have bought them (and to know who won’t get a present for next Christmas because of their poor gift choice).

Nina’s uncle always likes to pretend he is Santa. So at midnight, he, already drunk and red, stands up, and starts delivering the gifts to their receivers, almost falling over the Christmas tree at least four times. Everybody gets their gifts and pretends that they like them, saying stuff like, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” or “This is AH-MAZING OMG!”

With full stomachs, empty brains, and legs moving like string cheese, one-by-one the family goes away, leaving a mess behind them, which, of course, will be cleaned in the morning. End of story.

If you didn’t get it yet, Nina is actually Nona who is really me. This is every Christmas I celebrate with my family. Each one includes shouting, stress, fake smiles, a lot of insults, drama, and arguments, a lot of food, drinks, and frustration.

I know that a lot of people have the same Christmas experience like mine. Then why we continue loving it? We still wait for it the same way we did when we were innocent kids. How come? Are our lives so bad that we anticipate Christmas just because it’s relatively better? Are we just gluttonous opportunists who want to eat and drink until they become like air balloons? Or we are superficial materialists who just come for the presents?

I guess that my feelings for Christmas are similar to the ones for my family: the idea of it is amazing and exciting, but when it comes I want to run away from it because it’s all too overwhelming.

However, I still love it more than any other holiday, and I start missing it from the day it ends. This is family for me: a good feeling that I miss when they are not around me annoying me when they intrude into my personal space without carrying, but something I miss doubly when it goes away.

As long as I live, I will always love and hate Christmas with all my heart! Merry almost-Christmas everybody!