Monday, 19 December 2011

Why I love Christmas in Thailand - by Paul Garrigan author of 'Dead Drunk'

It is now only a few weeks until Christmas, and I must admit to feeling a bit excited by it all. The decorations are already up in our house; this year we bought our biggest plastic tree yet. If you walk past our home here in Minburi there is a good chance that you will hear Christmas songs. It really is the most wonderful time of the year for me – I love it.

Pagans and Jingle Bells

My current enthusiasm for Christmas is a bit surprising; especially when I consider that it was only a couple of years ago that I was debating whether to even celebrate it anymore. After all, we live in Thailand and we are not a Christian family. I also wondered about the ethics of introducing my son to the whole Santa idea. Then I remembered how much this time of year had meant to me as a child. I don’t want my son to miss out on any of that. Most of my favourite memories of growing up are connected with Christmas. Even when I stopped believing in Santa I still wanted to believe in him – I sort of still do.

A cynic could point out that Christmas is all just manufactured hype; a cunning marketing ploy to get people to empty their pockets before the beginning of the next financial year. Of course it is a special day to most Christians, but even some of them do not agree that it is actually the birth date of their saviour (which is probably in January). It is more likely that they selected the 25th of December so as to take over the winter solstice celebrations that were so popular with my European pagan ancestors. This helps explain why so many of the festive traditions are more related to paganism. So the Christians stole Christmas from the pagans, and marketing gurus in the twentieth century managed to hijack it and turn it into the celebrations we love today. You don’t have to dig deep underneath the surface of Christmas to see that it is built on a shaky foundation – even the much loved song Jingle Bells wasn’t actually written about Christmas!

I Wish it Could be Christmas Everyday – So Does Tescos!

Despite the reasons to be cynical this is my favourite time of year. It is a part of my culture that I love sharing with my son. Timmy is growing up in Thailand and it can be a struggle to keep him interested in his western heritage; this is one part of my culture that he willingly wants to embrace. My wife never celebrated Christmas until after my son was born; during our first few years together in Thailand I didn’t even bother with it. Now she loves this time of year too.

Growing up in Ireland I naively assumed that everyone on the planet celebrated this holiday. The Coca-Cola advert assured me that this was true and in those days we were less savvy about marketing gimmicks. I thought it was so wonderful that we had this one day when we all tried to be friends. It gave me hope because if we could get one day right then it would be a lot easier to get other days right too. If that could happen it would be our highest human achievement so far. I’m older now and realise that Christmas is far from perfect, but it probably is the nearest we have gotten to such a marvellous day.

Happy Christmas

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Click here to check out more of Paul's blog posts, on his website

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wanting more this Christmas

Since the release of My Secret Life: A Memoir of Bulimia, I have been graced with words from various people around the world. It shocks me still to know that there are so many others currently enduring that which I have detailed in my aforementioned title. My perceptions on my past are ever-changing as time goes on and as I grow. Some days, I find myself frustrated and angry with the issues that plagued my young life. Other days, I feel ready to reconcile both with the past and the person that has been formed as a result of it. But neither is a permanent fixture and I can only push as hard as possible for the latter.

While writing this book, I had hoped to touch into more than just what an eating disorder is; I sought to understand myself and analyze the facets that have proved so monumental in my life: bullying, self-worth, my relationship with God, humiliation, body-image, romantic relationships and the idiosyncrasies of my childhood.

Along with these things, I hoped to touch on the presence of the western media. While I have found liberation on a personal level with so many things in my life, this remains something I simply cannot escape. None of us can apparently. It’s on our television screens 24/7 and proving a worrying powerful force in our everyday lives. It’s shoved down our throats in music videos, magazines, newspapers, advertisements, fashion and all the everyday TV shows telling us how to ‘dress to impress’, ‘beat the bulge’ and ‘make an impression with show-stopping make-up’.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m all for looking my best and what’s more, being the best me I can possibly be. But is this really what the media are asking of us? It seems not lately. The size zero culture has not only gripped our contemporary society but is steering it down a detrimental path. I worry for future youths as exposure to such ‘ideals’ becomes more and more ostentatious. All it can surely succeed in creating is a generation of anorexics, bulimics and people doubting who they are against the might of the beauty machine of western culture.

In the face of prescribed perfection – and by perfection, I mean that 10% of individuals who strut catwalks and are thus determined to be the epitome of what we should look like and how we should behave – I wonder if we are risking the magnificence of the individual for a now unattainable status-quo? With so much importance being placed on aesthetics, we could well be losing sight of the best parts of the human condition: passions, creativity, a need to explore and learn and teach, kindness, ambition, empathy and understanding.

Okay, I’m sure I sound like I’m preaching now. But as we approach the holiday season and we’ll soon all be contending with our belts getting that bit tighter, perhaps it couldn’t do any harm just to bear these things in mind. I may be a recovering bulimic, but I am still a 21-year-old woman. And like all women my age, I feel the pressure of keeping up appearances and not over-indulging during the holidays. And like all women my age, I probably will do so anyway, promising myself that the New Year will bring some form of reformation and redemption.

Pre-New Year’s resolution? Relax, Leanne. You’d rather be indulgent and jolly than dieting and miserable. I have been blessed this season. I’ve had the opportunity to document my struggles in a memoir, thus emancipating myself from the pain they carry (Apparently it took bulimia and going to hell and back just to get me to enjoy my Christmas turkey and be comfortable with all my own wobbly bits and curves). What’s more, I’m spending this Christmas doing what I love: writing. The novel takes its turns – sometimes slow and sometimes practically writing itself. Nevertheless, as the snow starts hitting, I am grateful to be working from home, enjoying the company of the people who make me most happy and more than anything else, I’m grateful to be at liberty to truly enjoy the indulgent nature of this time of year and quite simply…. switch my blasted television OFF. Sorry size zero, you’re not on the Christmas card list. I want more than you this Christmas and more for myself forever.


My Secret Life: A Memoir of Bulimia is available now in the Kindle store.

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