. . . on decisions and traditions
Greetings from the inner sanctum of the giant, hermetically sealed Christmas bauble I tend to retreat into at this time of year. All the stomach- churningly terrible news has been almost completely shut out by jingletastic Christmas FM and repeated listens to Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer. The worn-out stair carpet looks romantic-shabby by the heart-shaped lights strung everywhere. The stress over what to get my picked-out-of-a-hat family member for his/her Kris Kindle (stop reading family or you’ll be lucky to get a piece of coal) has been alleviated by the fact that any adult with children will be delighted to get a voucher for a nice restaurant with an evening’s babysitting included. I’ve enough gherkins, tangerines and Luxury Coconut Creams in my cupboard to last to the middle of 2013. All is pretty much right with the world.
It’s not exclusively Bob Cratchit style bonhomie around these parts, though. As the children have evolved into increasingly sentient beings – refusing, for example, to put on their runners because they only want to wear “unicorn’s shoes” – the realisation that I am now Creating Christmas for two people has dawned on me. This is a lot of pressure. None of those gazillion parenting books I read while pregnant mentioned a thing about Creating Christmas. It just sneaks up on a person and suddenly there you are a few days before Christmas Eve gripped with anxiety about whether you’ve done it right.
Decisions and traditions I take and make now will have ramifications for the rest of our Christmasses to come. Wooden Advent calender or cardboard one? Crib or no crib? Real tree or fake? Turkey and ham dinner or a different thing every year? It feels as though once these decisions are made we can never go back. The children are of an age when they will remember so it feels like this is it now. (For the record we went for: cardboard, no crib, real tree, turkey and ham, all the way.)
The biggest decision, though, has been about Father Christmas. Last year I went through a bit of an existential crisis and almost became a Santa-denier. Now a fully paid-up member of the I Believe club, this year was all about the finer details of our family’s relationship with Mr Clause.
As all children know, parents and guardians have a special relationship with Him. They negotiate the small print of the contract like whether the presents are left under the tree or at the end of the bed, whether the presents are put in a stocking or a sack. When we were growing up this was the deal: We didn’t ask Him for big presents the way most children in Ireland do. Santa Clause brought us “surprises”. We left a pillow case at the end of the bed and he brought us cool “bits and bobs” always with a tangerine, chocolate coins and a kazoo.
It was our Mother who brought us the present we really, really wanted like a Girl’s World or a Stretch Armstrong. Santa was magical but she got credit for the big stuff. And the presents from her were given out after the Christmas dinner when we all gave each other presents. So we had to wait until every last dish was washed before we could sit around the tree and the family presents were given out one by one. This ritual ensured the Christmas magic lasted all day.
Even though the children asked Santa for Woody and Buzz, it’s been gently explained to them that Mum and Dad will be giving them what they really, really want at Christmas. Santa will bring magical surprises at the end of the bed and their big presents Woody and Buzz and (stop reading children. Oh. You can’t yet. Good.) wooden dressing-up dolls will come after the Christmas dinner. That’s it. The Santa contract signed and sealed and waiting to be delivered.
Realising that you are Creating Christmas so your small people can have the same magical memories you still hold dear makes a person feel suddenly more grown up. But I still can’t help hankering back to when my Mother was director, producer, choreographer and chief bottle washer at Christmas and I was an audience member required merely to turn up and be deliriously happy. I had a good teacher.
The only thing I’d dock marks for is that she made it look far too easy.
Merry Christmas everyone.