Thursday, November 11, 2010


Christmas. So much to say, I'll start at the beginning...

My Childhood Christmases
As a child I remember the stockings. To me they were the most exciting part of the day and even though, at the age of four, my older brother told me that Father Christmas didn't exist, deep down I still wanted to believe. How else would my stocking be filled? Who else would take the carrot and drink the milk and eat the biscuit? My parents always nodded with a grin when I rushed into their bedroom to show them what Father Christmas had brought me on his sleigh, he never forgot to put nuts and a satsuma into the toe of my stocking. Once up and dressed in our 'best' clothes we would all have breakfast together. The only other time this happened was on family holidays but this seemed extra special as we were at home. My brother always cooked and delegated the setting of the table to me.

Once breakfast was cleared away (and how long did that process seem to take!) it was time for presents. My brother and I would hand out the gifts and, whilst we did want to savour the moment, the whole thing was generally over in less than an hour. Often my favourite Aunt would join us. She was super cool - she rode a motorbike and wore jeans and a leather jacket. She would sit on the floor with us and play games or read to us whilst Mum cooked the most fabulous - I've still never tasted better - roast beef dinner. My Dad wasn't a fan of turkey so this became our traditional Christmas Lunch. I was always given one tiny sprout and urged to 'just try it' but I always refused. The afternoon was spent playing games, watching films and eating too many bars of chocolate from our selection packs. More often than not we'd wrap up warm and go for a walk to shake off the late afternoon sleepy feeling. That was my family Christmas.

That was until the year my brother left home. I knew Christmas would seem strange without him there. Oh how I wish he had been. My Mum and Dad had been struggling in their marriage and on Christmas Eve when my Mum came in asking 'Where's your Dad', with a look that signaled she meant business, I knew that that was it. The next day was excruciating, although Mum didn't actually tell me what I already knew until Boxing Day. I wanted so much for it all to go back to normal but I knew it never would. I'd never cook Christmas breakfast for them or sit on the end of their bed in my PJs with my stocking ever again. I was 17 and I felt a million years old whilst also desperately fighting the urge to regress to my seven year old self and sit on my Dad's knee whilst he cracked walnuts for me.

The Christmas' between now and then didn't hold the same meaning for me. The dilemma of who to be with on Christmas Day was always hard. I came to dread it, I didn't want to be asked in October what I would be doing in late December. I tried to muster the festive spirit in the run up to Christmas but when it arrived I just wanted to be by myself until it was all over.

A few years ago I spent the day with my friends instead of family. I found it fascinating to see two families (my friend's and her in-laws) come together, each fighting to maintain their own traditions. I couldn't stifle a chuckle as the youngest sister, 21, sulked when she was asked to hand out the gifts saying 'I'm not a child you know'. I swear she actually stuck out her bottom lip! I was outside looking in and I relished every moment and not just because my friend asked me to be her bridesmaid that day, although it did make it pretty special. For once I didn't have to try so hard, it wasn't about me or the past, or trying to keep everyone happy. I just sat, ate, drank and took it all in.

Last year was my first Christmas with OH. His family, he told me, were big on Christmas. He was big on Christmas. I felt panicked, now I would have more to navigate during the festive season, more to juggle and endure. For him and his family a long standing tradition had come to an end. Every year of OH's life he had spent Christmas Day in his Grandparents farmhouse. He had lost both Grandparents that year and told me he couldn't imagine not eating turkey at their dining room table or opening gifts around the fire.

Christmas turned out to be one of the best for a long time. OH's sister had a baby, a few weeks early, on December 23rd, which of course threw everything in to chaos. But it was good, happy, fun chaos with everyone mucking in and making the best of it. It was exhausting but wonderful. It was the perfect Christmas for me to join in the celebrations because everything was new.

This year I don't know were we will be or what we will be doing but I do know I am looking forward to it. When I think of  Christmases to come I get a genuine bubble of excitement in my stomach. I want to create traditions that don't tie us to any particular place on Christmas Day but for the day to be about being with family and loved ones.

I still have the Christmas stocking of my childhood. My Mum made it for me out of a pillow case and some festive ribbon and I intend to do the same for my children and they will always have a few hazelnuts and a satsuma in the toe. The afternoon walk on Christmas Day is a keeper and I'm sure other traditions will creep in without us even noticing. I'm glad to say that we have already continued one Christmas Day tradition from OH's family, one from his Grandma, to have shortbread biscuits with our first cup of tea of the day.

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  1. this post has made me feel all christmassy!

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  2. How lovely to regain your Christmases! My parents divorced when I was 4, so I've always had split Christmas but for me it has always been like that and so not strange x

    1. It is nice to look forward to it again. As the saying goes - time is a healer.


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