How to write about Christmas when it’s all packed away, in the past, gone and forgotten? Maybe not entirely forgotten but certainly time has moved on and people are thinking of other things now that January has its feet firmly under the table. But Christmas is an important event in my calendar and I can’t pack away the memories along with the boxes of decorations. The memories need to be stored here. Preserving memories and thankfulness were key reasons for starting this blog.
So feel free to move right along on these belated festive posts – they’re likely to be schmaltzy and sentimental but I need to give Christmas and New Year their moments in the spotlight.
And if you’re still reading, you have been warned!
This was a different Christmas for me in many respects. Our first festive season in the new house and the first with none of our various children visiting over Christmas itself. For a while we contemplated Christmas in Cornwall with just we two and Harri the cat. Bernie was quite taken with the idea. It would have been very different, certainly, to Christmases past. But it’s just we two and Harri almost every day of the year. How to make Christmas special with just us?
Decorating the new house was a new experience. I knew where everything went in our old place, here it was trial and error and feeling my way. But the final result was good enough and the neighbours were kind. I’ve learnt a little from this year’s efforts and I’ve a few ideas stashed away for next time.
And in the end, we did not spend Christmas in Cornwall. A welcome invitation from my sister saw us packing the car very early on Christmas Eve. We packed it with presents; we packed it with poor Harri – who was now destined to spend her Christmas at the cattery – and we set off, suitably attired, for the journey from Cornwall to Kent.
I can’t believe I managed not to take a photo of us in our matching musical jumpers, flashing noses and elf hats. How remiss of me; I’m sure you would have loved to see us both. (Though B can be viewed modelling the jumper in the group photo below – with me safely behind the camera.)
I don’t remember when tasteless Christmas jumpers became so popular – I’m late to the party as this is the first time I’ve ever worn one. B is getting quite a collection in his drawer. Yet he professes to be totally humbug about the whole thing…
Christmas for me is family. It’s a warm, fuzzy, festive few days when I revel in the sense of togetherness and closeness and traditions and love. I know how clichéd that sounds. I also know how fortunate I am. I don’t forget that for many, Christmas is something entirely different.
Our Christmas in Kent with Wendy, Kevin and their three young adults (their chosen term since they are no longer children), and of course with Mum & Dad, was a joy. Christmas with young children is also a joy but this year was different: relaxed, calmer and quieter! Christmas Eve was special – a lovely meal, a long evening. Thanks to Wendy and Kevin’s hard work, all the preparation was done: no frantic last-minute wrapping in the early hours; no last-minute baking. And because Mum was gamely battling a dreadful cold, no Christingle – for which we are always historically late. I suspect this was the most relaxed Christmas Eve I’ve ever had. Certainly one of the most heartwarming.
The next day I was awake a long time before everyone else. I love Christmas morning. I suspect when it comes to Christmas, that I may never grow up!
The young adults will not thank me for including this photo – from 10 years ago – but it remains one of my favourites.
And now they’re all grown up. Which means no early morning waking on Christmas morning for them! (Hence I only managed to catch one of the boys with the camera this year; the other was still in bed.) Everyone else is here though – in various Christmas poses. Apart from me. Shame about that. And young adults or not, I was charmed to see all three of them tumble in with their parents to open their stockings together. Family time.
Wendy and Kevin are consummate hosts. I love their home at the best of times but especially at Christmas when it exudes even more warmth, love and laughter than usual if that’s possible. There was time to chat; time to reminisce on Christmases past; time to chew the fat and catch up; time to look ahead and time to simply enjoy each other’s company. Precious time indeed. For which I am very thankful.
Presents, a wonderful dinner, a flaming pudding, wine, port, snoozes, silly games…. How long ago it seems already. But it was a magical hiatus.
Our Christmases are not perfect. There have been years when illness, loss or worry have spread their shadows. And the joys of Christmas are always interlaced with bittersweet memories of those now gone and of those far away and rarely seen.
Our Christmases are essentially secular. Christmas involves expense and preparations and all the accompanying modern-day stresses and strains. But they are not entirely driven by commercialism and clichés. Our family traditions are long-lasting and much-loved. Old rules (no tv) are still respected.
I like to think I maintain a spiritual element, at least privately. In acknowledging these few days in which to celebrate family, my heart opens. There is of course so much suffering in our world. For me, there is true gratitude for our family, and thankfulness for all that we have. And alongside this celebration of my own good fortune, comes a renewed commitment to wider values.
I find myself thinking as I write this, that I want to be able to describe my future Christmases as humanitarian. I have a whole year in which to work towards that thought becoming a reality.
Bernie and I left very early on the morning of 27th, leaving the rest of the house asleep. It gave me a few quiet moments to capture some of Wendy’s beautiful decorations in all their simplicity. Perfect.
Wendy, Kevin, I know you read this blog.
Thank you as always for a very special few days.