It is only right to reflect on Christmas as it is but days away. What does it mean to you? What do you enjoy most about the festive season? Or do you dread it; another dreary day devoid of love, companionship, nary a wisp of joy?
Well, I really do quite like Christmas; it is a time for family and friends, for gathering together, for chilling, eating, drinking and playing silly games. It is a time to be with the ones you love, some of them, all of them. It’s a time to remember how fortunate you are. And, my friends, despite some of our struggles and woes, we are fortunate.
There was a time when Christmas was a day to be avoided, a day of duty and best behaviour, a day when alcohol brought out the worst in my family, because the pains of the past were only papered over so too much enforced togetherness and cheerfulness meant one of us (at least) was bound to lose the plot and blood was invariably spilt. But those days are long gone.
For years now it’s been us and our friends, doing what we want in our own way, making our own traditions. Once it was tropical hot Christmases, with the play-pen guarding the presents; punch that lasted all day; roast pork, corn fritters and salad, roast potatoes and egg and bacon pies; an afternoon in the pool, the evening playing Trivial Pursuit. Deliciously drunk, happily shouting out the answers, while the kids veged in front of The Land Before Time or The Last Unicorn for the seventh time.
We’re a little pared back these days, less extravagance in the present department; less drinking, less friends around. But the joys of Christmas remain. Let me count the ways for you:
1. Buying presents for others is delicious – of course it’s different now with the plethora of on-line opportunities and bargains; you can window shop all hours of the day. But going to the shops is still fun, finding something unexpected and sparkly and just right for…
2. Wrapping presents is good fun – despite it being the epitome of an ephemeral task – wrapping a present carefully with prettily decorated paper that lasts a ‘moment’ only to be ripped off and thrown away in a second. But my properly grown up daughter (22) still loves to poke and prod and crush presents as much as she did when held at bay by the aforementioned play-pen. It’s a simple thing that you enjoy doing and then watching others poke and finally unwrap the treasure within.
3. Writing Christmas cards is good for you – a little token of your esteem with a personal message wishing people well or thanking them for their efforts, or just for being in your life. Selecting a card that suits your friends, writing a message just for them makes you feel good. As with presents, it matters not that you receive in return; it is the giving that matters. You feel better for making the effort and they appreciate your effort. It does bring smiles to people’s faces. The thought does matter.
4. Decorating the tree must be a moment of joy – does it go in the same place every year? Does the tinsel go first, when the lights? Who puts the star or angel on the top? These things matter, these are the things of tradition and good times. Our tree has always gone up on the last day of the term. It used to signal the end of a long school year, successfully navigated, the long summer holiday ahead. Now it’s the end of the long winter term and small breath before we return to the fray. The tree in the corner of the room with presents gathering at its feet is always a fine sign. And yes, I have a pink tree this year!!!
5. I love baking and preparing for the big day. My family now expects… So mid afternoon after a breakfast of eggs and bacon we have little egg and bacon pies, roast pork and apple sauce, some turkey, a small ham, roast veggies and, most importantly, corn fritters (see recipes blog). I will make a lemon-jelly cheesecake (see recipes blog) and there will be little cheesy-parmesan biccies too. In the kitchen I am queen, even if it isn’t my uber-fab kitchen on the other side of the world. Oh, yes, and the food does taste good, especially with champagne and Cointreau punch.
6. I just love being with my family, even though my kids are grown and the thrill of Santa has gone. There was the famous incident in the passage of the Darwin house, when the Dragon met me in the night and was aghast that he had disturbed Santa and me worried that he had seen me put the presents under the tree and knew I was Santa, well before that illusion should have been dashed. Only years later did we reveal who we really were in the night!
Christmas is many things to many people and once it was about Jesus and miracle births and singing in church but now it’s about the miracle of being alive and being grateful for my life, for shutting away the shadows and being in the light and warmth of my family this particular day of the year.
Enjoy your festive season: be good to yourself and the ones you love this Christmas and every day of the year. And if you can manage it, forgive those who have sinned against you this year, because they will not have the joy in their lives that you have. (Images courtesy Private Collection)