Christmas is a time for families, a time for friends, but isn’t it mostly a time for children?
The look on a baby’s face the first time they see the tree lights switched on and the screams the first time they are plonked on Santa’s knee – just remember children, don’t talk to strangers! The years when money was tight when wrapping up much needed bedding, underwear and items so very kindly passed on from friends and family just to give your children that pile of presents. The wait on Christmas Eve for them to finally fall asleep so you can go next door and retrieve that new bike secretly stashed in your neighbours’ garage – the bike you ‘put away’ 12 months ago and paid off each week when you dreamed of teaching them to ride it the following year. Trying not to make too much noise when you’re filling their home-made sack with the presents so carefully chosen and ensuring Santa will find his home-made marzipan sweets and drink of milk when he pops in later.
Christmas Eve has always been and still is our favourite night of the whole year. The traditional family afternoon of silly games and ridiculous food – we never eat chicken vol au vents or brandy snaps at any other time – a Christmas film before bed in our new pyjamas, cuddles on the couch, tracking Santa on the NORAD site and watching the skies for signs (Is it the ISS passing over or was that really Santa?) And then that hour of perfect peace when the kids both eventually fell asleep and we sat with a glass of wine, listening to Christmas music, enjoying the lights on the tree and the anticipation of the day ahead – even sometimes peeling potatoes and sprouts to save time!
Sadly, those days have long disappeared into lovely memories as they both grew up and left home. Presents becoming smaller each year– smaller and more expensive – the time spent together over the Christmas period is shrinking and no need to make Santa his marzipan sweets anymore.
So, what should we do? Home alone again its hard to remember how Christmas was before the kids arrived. What did we do on Christmas Eve back in the late 80’s? Danced the night away in the iconic Wigan Pier, paid extortionate prices to get a taxi at 2am – always double fares after midnight! Then try your hardest not to fall asleep at your Mum and Dads the next day! We probably won’t be going back to that!
We may be over 50 but you will find us both trudging round in the field to pick our own Christmas tree, find the man to cut it down and just hope we don’t lose each other in the midst of all the trees! We still go out in the street to meet and greet the Rotary Club Santa raising money by visiting the area. We open our advent calendars every day and look forward to spending time with the ‘grown ups’. We find time to celebrate the birth of Christ, although we no longer have a cake with candles for him and the days of singing Happy Birthday Jesus have long gone…
And whilst we may not have small children at home to share the Christmas magic with us, that won’t stop us from embracing the season and ensuring our own family traditions continue if somewhat differently. Christmas Eve remains an afternoon of silliness although as our parents age the concentration needed for some of the games has led us to revert to such delights as ‘blowing the sprout up the turkeys bum’, ‘passing the bomb’ and even ‘snowball fights’. We make Santa’s marzipan sweets, but gift them to Grandie; have an afternoon of Nanna, Mum and daughter baking from mince pies to chocolate logs – always making too much but having fun in the kitchen together. We get in each other’s way as we all try to set the table, find the crackers, serve the food. The bottles of pop, which were a real luxury when we were small, are always hidden ‘behind the couch’ following the tradition set by my parents many, many years ago. We have Christmas Eve boxes filled with our matching home-made pyjamas and slippers, take multitudes of photographs and share what becomes very precious times as everyone grows older.
We may not have our "grown ups" at home, but we have the pleasure of their company on our favourite day of the year. This year, like many, many other families we find ourselves one person missing. One less person on the shopping list of presents, one less name to write on a card, the person who appreciated the badly decorated home-made Christmas cake each year more than any other person, no longer here to enjoy it. We expect there to be tears and sadness, but we will be together and appreciate much more strongly the time we share with each other no matter how small that is.
Christmas is a time for families, a time for friends and yes a time for children. It's also a constant in so many of our lives, a seasonal yardstick by which we measure our lives and those of our nearest and dearest - for memories past and for many more still to be made.
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