I’ve had two Christmas cards this morning both wishing us a Merry Christmas and an adventurous new year
The night before last I posted to facebook with a status of ‘Christmas Schmistmas’. Last night I ordered some bits off ebay just because everyone else I know is stressing about things not arriving in the post in time and I was sort of feeling left out.
So I got to thinking about Christmas generally, how I feel about it, the impact it has on me and everyone around me and so on. I shared some of my feelings with Ady and he insisted we watch The Good Life Christmas episode together to reinforce what I was saying :). I love that my reaction is to grab a book to back up an idea, his is to select a TV sitcom episode
I’ve had various types of Christmas over the years. Early Christmasses were just as magical as they should be for small children, with time off school, the promise of snow (never actually seen a White Christmas), the smell of the Christmas tree, really good Christmas specials and Christmassy cartoons on tv, the magic of still half believing in Father Christmas and that almost unbearable excitement of creeping into the lounge early on Christmas morning to see the floor filled with brightly wrapped presents.
As a young adult I loved Christmas, loved the work Christmas parties, the dressing up in party clothes, the festive spirit (hic) even if as a retail worker it was often a stressful and busy time with little in the way of days off. When Ady and I were first together we began building our own traditions and really threw ourselves into Christmas, taking the first week of December off work, making pilgrimages to shopping malls for Christmas shopping for each other and taking great delight in recreating the sort of Christmas we both we’d had as children.
The magic really began when we became parents ourselves of course. Dragon’s first Christmas was a year my parents were abroad for Christmas so it was cosy, magical and incredibly indulgent to be enjoying our first family Christmas just the three of us. Star’s first Christmas was equally magical as she was barely 2 weeks old and meeting everyone for the first time – grandparents, uncles, aunt and cousins, friends. Our first few Christmasses as parents were filled with excited Christmas shopping, late nights spent wrapping presents and ensuring the pile for each child was the same size, wondering if they would ever go to sleep so we could put gifts under the tree, putting glittery footprints from the hearth to the Christmas tree and coping with a day that started at 5am by getting stuck into the bucks fizz as early as possible!
Four years ago just before Christmas our lives changed quite dramatically and we had to seriously reconsider making Christmas happen by throwing money at it. Budgeting and buying throughout the year when we have the cash to do so, making, buying second hand and putting thought into gifts rather than money makes for a cheaper, less stressy, more meaningful Christmas. This year we are taking that principle even further. Dragon and Star will be getting gifts that are useful, that will delight them not just for a few moments on Christmas morning as wrapping it torn from them but in the weeks and months afterwards. We are not buying things that will take up space, fulfil no purpose, not earn their keep.
The last 3 years we have spent a week with friends in early December. This is a very special group of friends who get together five or six times a year for various celebrations and stay in touch online, or by phone pretty much daily. We hire a youth hostel, nominate a day to be ‘Christmas’ and set about celebrating together with this extended family what are fast becomming our own traditions. For me it captures everything that Christmas means to me. I don’t have religious beliefs but do love the spirit of celebrating the turning of the year, being with those you love, singing together, creating decorations to brighten the dark of winter, making gifts with love and creativity and watching the recipients face as they open it, working together to create a feast, snowball fights with friends.
This year we will be buying as much food as we’ll eat. True it might be slightly more luxurious and we might be home a little more than usual so we may have a slightly higher shopping bill but I don’t want to be chucking stuff out at the end of January or having so many tins of quality street I am sick of the sight of it. This year everyone will be getting something that will enhance their lives past lunchtime. Our decorations are a real tree (we would have bought a potted one if we were not going away, as it is we have a real one given to us as a second) decorated with home made gingerbread biscuits, dried orange slices and home made baubles from last years recycled Christmas cards. We will have excesses it is true – we have bought wrapping paper, the lights adorning the house will be ticking our electricity meter round that bit quicker, we did send Christmas cards and there will be plastic under the tree for Dragon and Star, along with things with plugs.
If your Christmas is just another bullet point in your already overworked job list, transferring money you don’t have in the first place from your credit card to amazon.co.uk, filling your fridge with food you won’t eat, your bathroom with bubble bath you won’t use, your house with more stuff you don’t want and your children with an ever increasing portfolio of ‘I wants’ and plastic tat then I urge you to stop for a minute and reclaim what your Christmas is to you. Think back to the last time you felt some magic from December 25th and what it was about that memory you could recapture for yourself this year. For me it is wearing a bright white school shirt and shivering in a big church as part of the choir for a carol concert, the year I got the walkman I *really* wanted for Christmas, that blissful couple of hours walking home at the end of a bloody good New Years Eve in the early hours of a brand new year when every single person you meet becomes someone you exchange a smile or Happy New Year greeting with even though they are a stranger you would be suspicious of on a normal late night walk home. I’ve found elements of all of that for my Christmas this year, while giving my children the basis for their own Christmas memories and traditions.
Merry Christmas – find a way of actually making it merry, filled with love and wonder and festive magic.