November always marks the run up to Christmas, so who’s ready?! Not me! The last couple of years I’ve developed ‘the fear’ just thinking about Christmas. I can feel my anxieties building…the campaigns, endless TV commercials, noisy toys moving and coming alive in shops, it’s one massive head-screw! The thought of spending a small fortune on a load of plastic crap for the kids totally fills me with dread. Because I know for a fact that half of it will get played with once or twice at most, then spend the rest of the year gathering dust on the shelves! The biggest problem is, we set the bar too high from the offset. Just as our parents did, we now do the same.
The festive season is about the children isn’t it? As a child, me and my siblings absolutely could not contain our excitement. Even the run-up; tearing out images from the Argos catalogue, compiling lists, visiting Santa in Selfridges and noting down all the toys we wanted from the adverts. Decorating the tree was a big deal. We grew up with a fake Christmas tree that dad would get out of the garage every year and we would all hang the baubles together and each year take it in turns to put the fairy on the top. The festive decor started and ended with the tree in our house growing up and maybe a few fairy lights along the mantle piece. We were totally envious of our friend’s house though which without fail had those foil decorations hanging down from the ceiling absolutely EVERYWHERE! Gold, red, silver, like a home from home Grotto…they would go all out and we loved it!
Christmas Eve was a bit of a countdown from the moment we woke up. Just killing time during the day with those butterflies building up in the pit of your stomach. Then darkness came and I don’t think our parents could get us into our pyjamas quick enough! Discussions would begin among us about who was going to stay awake all night to keep watch for Santa, or who heard him the year before and was certain to hear him again this year. Empty stockings lay at the base of our beds and an empty pillow case too!
Whoever woke first on Christmas Day (usually my sister Lucy who was – and still is- an excitable puppy about to pee her pants!) would inevitably wake the rest of us up! Dragging her filled stocking and pillow case and comparing presents on our beds. There was no such thing as a lie in! We rarely opened our bed presents and stockings with mum and dad. It was usually only ever us brothers and sisters on one of our beds, ‘ooooing’ and ‘aaaahhhing’ at every unwrapping moment! Then came the stampede of us running into mum and dads room to show off what Father Christmas had bought us. Without fail their ‘not knowing’ faces were as true as ever “wow, lucky you, that’s great!”. And us proclaiming how Santa knows us so well and “that’s exactly what I wanted”!!! Whoever had spotted the mass of tree presents first would let off an almighty “OH MY GOSH” which sparked a rush of hysteria among us kids and lots of giggling! Matching the wrapping paper to that that was in our stockings, made identifying who’s was who’s a whole lot easier. There was always a running family joke about who would get the biggest presents “Wow, Abby yours are massive!”….”Danny are you the red paper?”…. Commence a couple of hours resembling a re-cycling factory filled with wrapping paper or similarly a large department store in the middle of the living room!
As we hit our teens and twenty’s the family joke then swiftly turned from “Who got the biggest presents” to “Who’s got the biggest hangover”! We’d get a warning from mum every year on Christmas Eve not to drink too much and “I don’t want any hangovers tomorrow!”. This stemmed from a couple of christmas’s where either myself or my brother was steaming from the night before and spent the day in everyone’s way sleeping on the sofas and not giving off JOY hahahaha! Sometimes we’d join mum at midnight mass (if we weren’t out partying of course!). Your gifts get smaller and smaller year after year too don’t they? Supposedly more expensive…but not always the case. Father Christmas however would always stick to tradition and my brother’s stocking ALWAYS had a ball of string at the bottom of it…and still does! Christmas Dinner would spark the question every year as to whether we were having sprouts or not. Most of us love them but boy would the house STINK after lunch- A strong combination of sprout farts and my brother’s lager breath! Oh and hold on to your sacred crispy roast potatoes because one sudden move and they were swiped from your plate! I can vouch for that…there were tears! Oh and don’t even get me started on the Christmas dinner food fight!!….
As we’ve all got older and flown the nest so to speak, there are still stragglers every year at my parents house. Lucy’s festive squeals begin from around September and inevitably she always wants to ‘go home’ every Christmas Eve to re-create the magic. My brother Danny is always home too and our youngest sister Libby, who only a teen herself, is still very much in the thick of it all. Myself and my other siblings chose to spend it with our own families, watching our own children growing up with the same festive buzz. Lucy and Danny this year however, have both had children of their own so who knows what they will want to do. It wouldn’t surprise me if they both moved back home with the babies and their partners, knocking on the door asking for a room at the Inn! I don’t think it would be a surprise for my mum and dad either 🙂
My traditional childhood Christmases certainly instilled some awesome memories but also some high expectations. The bar was set high…a happy house, happy children, excitement, laughter, lots of food and gifts, music, singing, dancing…How wonderful is that? I now have these traditions to pass on to my own boys. Not because I have to but I want to. Their first Christmases in particular have always been pretty special. Lots of fuss made but with minimal mess…YAY! As they’ve got older, the appreciation on their faces is priceless. Probably similarly the same emotions my parents felt from watching and admiring us. The toys are big, noisy, and fiddly. Tye and I have had a few late-to-bed Christmas Eve’s because we’ve been up putting toys together at the last minute, or running out to the shop to stock up on forgotten batteries!
Boxing Day sees the whole family united at one of our houses (usually my sister Diana’s because it’s big enough to house ALL of us!). We all turn up in our new clobber from Santa, kids high off Ferrero Roche chocolates, big sacks full of yet MORE presents (as if the kids didn’t have enough the day before!), adults with sore Port heads, and plates full of ‘leftovers’ to share hahaha. Roll on more chaos, the cousins causing havoc, grandad asleep again sitting upright on the sofa, and drinking games through into early hours of the morning.
I don’t know about you though but once Boxing Day is over and out the way, I want the house back to normal! If I had it my way (damn it I don’t!), the tree would come down, the decs stored away, the hunt for toy storage would begin and my house would not have any shred of tinsel or pine needles to be seen ever again…… Until next year