Okay, I’ve caved in. I’ve put some decorations up. No I’m not a Christmas Grinch, but since my parents died Christmas isn’t the same and as none of my family live in Christchurch, I go to them, so it’s quite different and as I’m away for Christmas day, then decorating seems a bit pointless in some ways.
Today however I worked in a very Christmassy environment, selling Christmas decorations, in fact. What got to me were two things – some simple bunting, and the children. The children’s faces light up at the trees, the glitter, the lights, the decorations, and that’s way before they even get to see Santa. Their innocent excitement is wonderful and somewhat catching. In the quiet moments we unpacked some stock and we had just had some more bunting in. I thought it was cute, minimalist and would be perfect, so of course I bought some myself!
Then tonight when I got home and backed the car into the garage I had to go to the back seat to get things out of the car and I realised that one of my brothers had moved my box of Christmas decorations (“to make it easier for me”). I thought, what’s in that bag… and low and behold my Christmas wreath which I thought got lost when I moved was in it. So the wreath is up as well!
I won’t be doing the tree – it’s a bit of effort and I need some new lights. However, at least my house has some nod to the season now showing. What Christmas really means for me though, is traditions and family. So getting together with family is important. I feel a little bit divided as we’re all a bit far strewn now so a “family” christmas with all my siblings hasn’t happened in many many years – they’ve all got families of their own. I’ve had two Christmases in Wellington and this year I’m heading to Central for my second Christmas. I would love to host everyone one year, but as my place doesn’t allow for free accommodation for more than two people it adds to the cost for anyone coming to me. One year I’ll save up and pay for accommodation (as my gift) and do this.
When I was little decorating the tree was a ritual for us kiddies (and Luke our dog would sit and watch). The cats were a little indifferent until the baubles came out. The parcels were often under the tree up to a week before Christmas and we’d all poke and feel and one brother (he knows who he is) had an uncanny ability to pick what everyone had from everyone else! He still does this – feels a parcel and tells you what he thinks it is before you open it! It’s all part of the fun.
Christmas eve we’d all head down to midnight mass (not before putting a beer and christmas cake out for Santa when we believed)… and after midnight mass we’d come home. Mum’s ham would have been cooked earlier that day so the ham would be cut and we’d have a ham sandwich, a christmas treat such as a chocolate ball and a drink (something alcoholic for the adults) and we’d all open ONE parcel. Only one. We all knew which one it would be after a week of looking and poking at them!
Christmas morning would dawn and it was never up with the larks – but we’d be expected to be dressed by 9am and we’d all help with having breakfast, or getting “elevenses” ready or helping mum with some prep in the kitchen. All to the tune of Bing singing “White Christmas” and other old school Christmas tunes. At 11-ish (sometimes a little earlier) the brandy would be poured for mum, dad would have a beer or whisky and we’d all have a soft drink (or something stronger as we got to be old enough) and we’d do presents. Then it was back into the kitchen to get that wonderful lunch finished. It was always around 1pm when we’d sit down. I was often on brandy sauce duty for the Christmas pudding.
It’s these memories of us all together, and in later years as many of us as we could, together, that make Christmas to me. It’s about spending time with your family and those little traditions. So Christmas has really felt different for me for the last 5 years. I now go to others who have started their own traditions … but I usually manage to sneak a couple of mine in – like one present after Xmas mass – which for me should always be Christmas eve!
Nature has her own traditions too – down in the Southern Hemisphere the Pohutakawa tree flowers (if it flowers early December it’ll be a good summer) and the lillies bloom. Enough for me to pick some to add to my decorations tonight too.
So the Christmas feeling has finally hit me, 14 days out, and I’m ready to finish my Christmas shopping and get presents wrapped this weekend. It really is beginning to feel like the season.