The View from Here: Christmas 2016

In allowing myself these few days in which to celebrate family, my heart opens.

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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.

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And if you’re still reading, you have been warned!

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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…

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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.

Christmas Eve
Christmas Eve

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wendy, Kevin, I know you read this blog.  

Thank you as always for a very special few days.

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32 thoughts on “The View from Here: Christmas 2016”

    1. I love to see the generations connecting, FlowerAlley. My parents have 9 grandchildren ranging from 12yrs to 35yrs old, and 2 great-grandchildren (my grandsons). The interaction between them is lovely to see, especially with the three in this post who see the most of their grandparents. The young people’s kindness, care, patience and respect is special.

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  1. Sandra, what a lovely, lovely post. I adore that picture of everyone around the festive table with their Christmas jumpers and happy smiles. Thank you for sharing your family memories and events with us. 🙂

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    1. Liz, I hesitate so often about posting family stuff: the slippery concept of audience can often give me cause to pause. It’s good practice though, for remembering why I started the blog and I did give fair warning on this post 🙂 That said, I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Family and friends are precious and deserve celebrating and appreciating 🙂

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      1. Well said. And I empathise with that feeling of hesitation. I try to work on the basis of writing want I want to write, and leaving it to others to get what they want to from it. 🙂

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    1. Jonathon, her ordeal was prolonged. No sooner had she been retrieved from the cattery than the house was invaded by New Year Visitors. Poor thing! I’m happy to report that she quickly forgave me and is sitting here, ‘assisting’ this this reply by sprawling across my arm. Typing is challenging this morning!

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  2. Hi Sandra that was lovely, Christmas’s past and present are always different – do admit to having a festive jumper as well and was that a beard that Bernie has now?

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    1. Hi Sue! 🙂 Lovely to hear from you. (I will email… eventually) Glad I’m not the only one with a festive jumper (now lurking in the cupboard). And yes – B has a beard! Happened by accident really, in the summer. I like it!

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  3. Wonderful warm memories ,Sandra, to help carry you through the deep, dank, dark days of winter.
    Uplifting for us all.xx
    ( Am I the only one without a Christmas jumper?!?!)

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  4. I so much enjoyed reading this – our Chrstmas celebrations revolve around our family and it’s a real joy to have our three daughters here. Particularly as we moved to the country three years ago and none of them have lived here, but they all love it and regard it as home. Happy New Year to you

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      1. Thanks – I’m relatively new to the blogging community but I love it. It’s just a challenge finding the time to read everything I want to@

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    1. Absolutely – on both counts. (I couldn’t resist and just had to at least read your ‘about’ page. Where I notice how ‘followed’ blogs we have in common. It’s surprising how small this blogging world can be!)

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  5. Hi Sandra. Thank you for sharing these happy memories of our Christmas. It was a lovely occasion and great to see you and Bernie. As you say it is all over far too quickly, but we look forward to catching up with you again soon. Hope you are enjoying that bench!

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    1. I look at the spot where the bench is destined to be and imagine sitting on it. That’s about as far as it has got at the moment! There may be a whole blog post devoted to that bench when I finally get to use it 😉 xx

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  6. We’re into February, and I’ve only just got round to reading this. Shame on me, dear friend! Well, you know I’m a bit of a downer about Christmas, but scrap all that. I simply and utterly loved your blog. Just magical as always and warmed me cockles on this dreary Sunday!!! xxx

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