What Does Christmas Mean To You?
I absolutely love Christmas. First and foremost, I just love it! But it does conjure up a whole load of mixed emotions. I love to get all festive and walk around the shops (after all the presents have been bought) and take in the joy and atmosphere of this festive season. But it also pulls at my heartstrings.
Growing up, Christmas was the most magical time for me. I was so lucky to experience this. I know it wasn't (or isn't) the case for many people. And that saddens me greatly. To think that some kids don't have what I had when I was a child hurts me to the core. I grew up in a working class home with no spare cash for luxury items so to receive the abundance of toys that I, and my sisters, received at Christmas was one of the most amazing times of my life (there was no doubt in my mind that there was a Santa!). My mother made Christmas Day the best day of the year. We would get up in the morning and line up at the top of the stairs, we weren't allowed to go down without my parents (they loved to see the look on our faces once the living room door was opened). However, my father wasn't quite as excited as us, so we would all be standing at the top of the stairs shouting at him to get up. Eventually, he joined us and my mother would lead the way, slowly open the door and announce (every year!) that she didn't think Santa had come. Then she would turn on the light and we would storm in to be greeted by, what I can only describe as, a pool of toys. My sisters and I were appointed a chair in the living room in which our toys would be laid out so we knew which one to go to. My mother never wrapped our toys from Santa, she laid them out on and around the chair so it really was like walking into a toy shop!
We would spend hours playing with our toys, then circulate to see what everyone else got. My Nana and Granda would call in every Christmas morning and my Granda would always find something to 'fix' or build. It was a chore for my mother to get us to eat breakfast. Christmas day was perhaps the only day of the year that we were allowed chocolate before breakfast. And then the smell of the turkey would start to roam into the living room. One of the best things about Christmas day was that no one was allowed to fall out. My mother never told us off and the atmosphere was pure happiness and joy. We got dressed into our new clothes, our new pyjamas gently tucked under the pillow again. I adore my Christmas dinner now but as a child it only interfered with playing and as I got older it always coincided with Top of the Pops and there was no chance of the tv being on during dinner. At best, the tv was left on in the living room so you could keep an ear out for it.
After dinner, this was perhaps the only time of the year when my sisters and I worked together efficiently to wash up because the quicker we did this the quicker we would get to open up our presents under the Christmas tree. The rule in our house was that presents from family and friends were opened after dinner (I guess my mother thought there was enough going on in the morning with Santa having just been). We would then all sit together and open our presents, making sure we all opened the same present from the same aunt at the same time (which was quite often the same or similar but in a different colour). My dad was responsible for gathering all the wrapping paper into the black bin bag. Again it was the only time of the year when you could get away with openly throwing paper on the floor without getting told off. My parents really did make Christmas day all about us. And I am very grateful to them for it.
Then as I got older, and reality hit, it was never quite the same. Still a fantastic family day but my pile of toys got smaller and smaller being replaced with more teenage appropriate presents (and probably more expensive) so the excitement of Santa leaving lots of toys left me, never to return and instead I am left with, albeit perfectly happy memories, a heart wrenching nostalgic feeling which resonates within me every year. And now years later, my sisters and I are all married with our own families and my parents take turn in coming to each of us for Christmas (I guess it was time to repay the favour!).
Now it's my responsibility to make Christmas memorable. Not Santa's or my parents. The child in me comes out every year though. Without overkilling it, I start to get excited as soon as I possibly can. I do start to think about Christmas present lists both for myself (to give to others in the event that they ask) and anyone I am buying for in November but it's usually the end of November/early December before I start buying any presents. I do this because I really enjoy buying for others and so I like to take time and buy the right thing and also because I want all my presents bought a week or two before Christmas so that I can start to wind down and enjoy the atmosphere without the stress. I usually put my Christmas tree up no earlier than 2 weeks before Christmas and for this occasion I buy my first pack of mince pies and play, for the first time, my favourite Christmas songs.
I definitely feel that, as I got older, you need to put more effort into making Christmas feel Christmasy. Do you know what I mean?! When you are a child, a teenager or even early twenties, the weeks leading up to Christmas felt festive but now it just doesn't feel quite the same. I still love it but I feel like I have to actively participate in certain activities and go and find the festive atmosphere or I could miss it. Even strolling around shops isn't as joyful anymore, because shoppers are going crazy to find last minute deals and swearing at each other. Why aren't they standing by the mulled wine stall laughing and singing Christmas carols. I need to stop watching Christmas movies! Maybe it's because I am the adult now and my mother is not there creating the Christmas spirit while my sisters and I watch Christmas movies (I guess this is deep routed!). Or maybe the festive season really isn't quite the same anymore.
Either way, I have my Christmas rules: buy presents as soon as possible; put up Christmas tree with Christmas music and mince pies; at least one shopping day stroll with nothing specific to buy and a lovely lunch with a glass of bubbly; Christmas Eve is all about preparing as much as possible to make Christmas Day go according to plan; Christmas morning wake-up, open presents with tipple of choice (I'm a grown up now so I get to open my presents in the morning instead of after dinner!) and It's A Wonderful Life on in the background; enjoy Christmas dinner; eat chocolates to the point of no return; drink merrily and kick off your shoes, put on your (hopefully this year Ugg from my Christmas list) slippers and watch telly all evening.
Boxing Day is quite traditional for many people for lots of reasons. When I was a child ours was to go to my Nana and Granda's after dinner, where we would meet up with my cousins and aunts, while the men would go to the pub for a couple (like I said, very traditional!). Now, Boxing Day for me, is a re-run of Christmas Day but with less fuss, less stress and more watching movies with my champagne ice bucket beside me so I don't have to get off the sofa.
Christmas time is the only time of the year when I get time off work and I actually don't go anywhere. So it is a well deserved and rested break for the end of the year, fully re-charged for the new year.
Whatever Christmas brings to you, I wish you all every health and happiness. Merry Christmas x.