Why I like Christmas
When December Comes
So it's that time of year again...*groan*...Christmas...it's all so hypey, junk-mail inducing, wasteful, tiring, stressful, expensive, crowded, there's nowhere to park when you go out...and I don't really want to see It's a wonderful Life on TV...again.
Yet in spite of my default bah-humbug position on most things,I still like it. I always have. For me it's all wrapped up with deep-rooted positive feelings and memories stretching back to infancy - of warmth and security, colour and decorations, the tree, the excitement of anticipation, the end-of school, freedom, fun, long Summer holidays, the beach, people, music, delicious food, and a brand new year stretching ahead...a fresh start.
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Ghosts of Christmas Past
One of my earliest memories is being held up over my fathers shoulders to look at the Christmas decorations that were placed along the cornice work - deep red paper fans and green tinsel. I also vaguely remember one year we had an ice-cream cake Father Christmas, which was very unusual.
Of course it's true once you get to a certain age the magic dissipates. As a child I adored the build-up to Christmas Eve and when it finally arrived I went to bed early but could never sleep. We used to get our presents in a pillow-slip at the end of the bed..I can still retrieve the memory of that weight on my legs on Christmas morning when I awoke.
I used to share a room with my older sister and sometimes she would wake up before me and check out my pillow slip before I did. One year she found a toy Merry-Go-Round, intended for me, that she played with and broke before I woke up...and then, with great criminal acumen, buried it in the back yard. I don't remember, but evidently Mum and Dad were mystified and kept asking me if I was sure I looked right to the bottom of the pillow-slip..."are you certain Santa didn't leave something else in there?" Of course they couldn't say anything or that would blow the lid off the whole Santa thing. Her crime was never discovered and I only found this out years later through a guilty confession. I've never let her forget it!
It used to be family legend that one of my older brothers had actually seen the real Father Christmas. During a party one Christmas Eve when the children were asleep my father had dressed up as Santa as a joke and crept into the bedroom to deliver the goods late at night. My brother unexpectedly opened his eyes and said in a very serious voice.."hello Father Christmas". Dad said many years later that he got such a surprise to hear the little voice he quite freaked out about it.
I got freaked out too, when I was about four years old and was taken to the top floor of a city department store to meet Santa. He was an intimidating figure on a golden throne in the centre of what seemed to me a huge room and although he had a bag of toys by his side, when it came time for me to cross the room and say hello I wouldn't budge. Eventually my sister managed to coax me across the room but I remained cautious. There's a poignant photograph of my sister and I standing by his side (my sister in the middle) . My expression is sombre and Santa has two fingers firmly clutching my arm so i couldn't escape before the picture was taken.
We kept up the charade of Santa for years after I stopped believing but unfortunately as I moved toward adolescence the pillow slip got lighter and lighter until one year when I was about 14 it was very light indeed...much to my dissappointment and from then on I just got a regular one-present given to me like the adults.
Tradition...Europe in the Heat
Crazily, when we were growing up my mother always insisted on a full traditional, English Christmas dinner..with huge roast, plum pudding etc..often to her detriment. I remember one year she fainted while trying to cook a roast dinner for six in a tiny caravan while temperatures were 100 degrees in the shade. Not that I didn't enjoy them...I did.
My mother put a huge effort into Christmas dinner every year...no-one ever took the burden off her as usually the extended family would come to us. I took it all for granted, never considering the time and strain and stress that must have gone into it. Every year she made shortbread, Christmas cakes with almond icing, chocolate peanut biscuits and all sorts of delicacies. My Grandmother did make the Christmas puddings...traditional ones done up in cloth that would hang in the kitchen in the weeks leading up to Christmas Day.
Although I've been known to nod my head and commiserate in a yes, I know isn't it awful? kind of way when cynical friends complain about the season...I don't really mean it. I also secretly like all of the old traditional carol songs and the cheesy reindeer/jingle bells/white christmas/you'd better be good music that is endlessly played everywhere you go.
I'm quite fond of the Tim Minchin song in the video below. I agree with many of the sentiments but at the same time it makes me melancholy because I become aware of the people I loved who will be missing on Christmas day. Still, it encapsulates what Christmas means to me...security, family relationships and the people who love you unconditionally.
Just Really Like It...
No Ho Ho...
I hate to put a dampener on things but it's true that Christmas can be a depressing time for many...December has the highest suicide rate. When I first heard about that I was deeply shocked. But then I thought about it....
For those who are alone and lonely the so-called festive season can highlight their situation. Just as for those who have absolutely no money it can highlight miserable destitution.Some are not poor or lonely, but are suffering from general depression and keep themselves apart so as not to bring anyone down. Worst scenario of all...lonely, depressed and destitute. Then all the fripperies, excesses and family togetherness of the time of year must feel like a cruel intrusion and all that *joyousness* a mockery. It's more alienating than ever to be depressed at Christmas.
It's no consolation at all but if you are feeling that way, I and many others think about you every year .Remember...come Boxing day it'll all be over and the hope of a New Year will stretch ahead. As my grandmother was fond of saying..'you just never know what's around the corner'.
Because I don't really want to leave this hub on a down note I had to find something light and Christmassy to put in here. So here's some froth:
- Christmas pudding was first made as a thick soup with raisins and wine in it
- Electric tree lights were first used 3 years after Edosn staged his first mass demonstration of lights to the piublic in 1879
- Christmas crackers were invented buy a guy called Thomas Smith
- White Christmas is the biggest selling Christmas song of all time
- The 25th was not celebrated as the birth of Christ until the year Ad 440
- The Queen gave her fist televised Christmas speech in 1957
Okay, that's enough.