Some traditions are practised by millions of people, and timed to coincide with national, global or religious holidays or events.
For example, many Westerners like to put a pine tree in their house during December, and cover it with tiny light bulbs and slightly stale foil-wrapped chocolates. Your school might put on a show at the end of term where the teachers attempt to be hilarious, and the least funny one is made to wear a wig in order to make up for their lack of natural humour. I’ve just started my own personal tradition where I sprain my ankle quite badly around the beginning of November. (It usually comes straight after another once-a-year tradition, the one week in which I get really enthusiastic about running.)
As well as sticking up trees in our houses, finding pointy needles in our socks or getting badly scratched whenever we have to reach for the power point when we want to turn the lights on, there are plenty of familiar festive traditions that you might enjoy experiencing with your friends and family. There’s eating lebkuchen at a German Christmas market! Watching Elf! Guessing who has got you for Secret Santa, until a po-faced pal says “SHUT UP! IT’S CALLED SECRET!” which is pointless because the rest of you have already made the necessary deductions and seen her in Claire’s buying a phone case while asking “and do you have those stick on crystals? I need to spell out ‘GEMMA’.”
My tradition is that I always have a Christmas period. Obviously, yes, everyone experiences ‘the Christmas period’ on some level – but I have proper festive menses. Regardless of what my cycle is doing during the rest of the year, the planets align with my uterine lining and ensure that I am cramping like crazy by December 24. The blood is more keen to get out of my body than Santa getting down a chimney, and although I want to make a cheap joke about filling my stocking, I will say that I’ve lost many pairs of tights in the struggle. Yo, ho, ho.
However, in some ways, getting the gift that won’t stop giving is a pretty good festive present. Partly because Christmas is a holiday in which reality is suspended; to some extent, we’re all expected to behave like the Cookie Monster, dealing with the news of an international cookie shortage, and then winning the Cookie Lottery. Nobody will even notice if you cry at the sight of a broken phone charger, or shout furiously at a chair – it’s Christmas, innit?!
Here’s how to make the most of your Christmas period:
1. Do your hormones have you wishing to eat every single thing in your eye line that doesn’t taste of poison? It’s time to get stuck in! You can eat chocolate by the metre! You can put gravy on a sandwich! You can snack between snacks! Almost every food item that enters your house in December is delicious and comforting, as if it was designed to deal with the extreme hunger that sometimes accompanies the beginning of your period.
2. Feel a bit bloated? Need to lie on the sofa with your jeans unzipped for an hour or three? It’s pretty much the law for everyone to do this anyway until January 5th.
3. Sometimes we all need a cry for no reason, or rather, the reason is so specific and complicated that you don’t want to explain it to your well meaning but nosy little sister. In December, you can shut down all annoying enquiries by saying “I was just thinking about The Snowman, and that bit when he melted.”
4. Christmas is a time for family, and sometimes that includes your annoying Uncle Dan who has endless, epic dinner time monologues about That Time He Was Almost A Roadie For U2. If you’ve got your period, you don’t have to sit through it politely – just tell your Mum (or a sympathetic family member) that you’re feeling dodgy and you need to go for a quiet lie down in a place free from chatty relatives.
5. On the first couple of days of a particularly heavy period, you might want to do everything you can to avoid leaving the house. At Christmas time, no one leaves the house unless it has caught fire. Just make sure you’re careful when lighting candles, and that your pyjamas aren’t too flammable. Then you can stay in your cosy nest without having to justify anything to anyone.