Christmas is a funny time of year.
As a child, I had the most magical Christmases ever. The anticipation, the build up, the big day itself and even the come-down afterwards was one brilliant moment as far as I was concerned.
For a long time, I was the youngest child in the family. I had cousins, but those I saw over Christmas were older than me. I was eight when my brother was born and he added the sparkle that had started to fade for me and it was magical again. When he was ten, my cousin had her son, and again the presence of a child in the family made it magical once again.
Our Christmases were simple, but special. It was an event always held at my grandparents’ house. In the weeks leading up every time we’d visit you’d see more evidence of Christmas approaching – decorations that started off in the hallways and then into the rarely used dining room and the even more rarely used front room, where the tree would be on top of the bureau, the same tree and decorations as the ones my mum and her siblings had used, delicate glass baubles in ancient cardboard boxes.
Either the weekend before Christmas, or on Christmas Eve, we’d go round to Nan and Grandad’s house with the presents. Nan would put them all in the front room, and on Christmas Eve before she went to bed she would put everyone’s presents into piles. A magical moment for me as a kid was walking into that room first on Christmas morning and seeing all those piles of presents. We had our special spots in the room for our gifts to be piled, and in the middle of the room my granddad would put two bin bags for all the rubbish.
First thing on Christmas morning, my brother and I would open our Father Christmas presents in our mum and dads room. Then we’d get washed and dressed in our best outfits, and head over to Nan and Grandad’s house. Breakfast would be coffee and bacon sandwiches for the grown ups, orange juice and bacon sandwich for us kids. My mum has two sisters and a brother, and when I was young they’d all head to Nan and Grandad’s house for Christmas Day. Her brother would come with his wife and their son, whose 8 years older than me; one sister would come with her husband, the other sister with her three children. Then there’d be me, and later on my brother, plus mum and, when he wasn’t working, dad (he normally was working though! He was a frontline ambulance technician when I was a child)
After breakfast we’d go into the front room. It was a magical moment for me as a child. We all went to our piles of presents and wait til everyone was in there and ready. Then we’d start, a frenzy of unwrapping and thank you’s and hugging and kissing until every last present in the pile was open. Usually at that point everyone would leave in their own cars to go to the church service at the same church where my grandparents, parents and brother got married, which was next to elderly residential flats where my great grandmother lived. After church we’d go and pile into her tiny one room flat to visit with her and my great aunt, who lived in the opposite flat.
Back at home while we’d all been out my nan would have tidied up the front room and dinner would be ready when we got back after visiting with my great grandmother and great aunt. Two dining tables would be pushed together in the dining room and we’d all sit round to eat. After dinner and tidying up we’d relax and play with our Christmas gifts. The family grew, and the family shrank over years, but we continued with our tradition until I was an adult.
After that, when both my nan and granddad had passed away, the family separated out. By then I was with Daddy P, so we divided our Christmastime between my family and his, but with no children and no traditions it seemed to lack a certain sparkle and wasn’t as special as I always remember it being.
|J's 1st Christmas|
Then came the first Christmas with J, in 2010 – he was only four months old but his presence added something that had been missing from Christmas for some time. In 2011 we celebrated my nephew’s first Christmas and in 2014 we celebrated my niece’s first. The presence of children in a family definitely bring back that Christmas sparkle for me. Seeing them enjoy the magic of it all and helping create memories for them to treasure when they’re older; that’s what Christmas is all about for me. As J gets older it becomes more magical – now he’s four he gets thoroughly caught up in the magic of Father Christmas, and elves, the decorations and the sparkling lights, the buying of gifts for others and receiving gifts himself.
It does make me wistful for people no longer here, though. It makes me miss my grandparents even more because Christmas was always a time I remember spending with them. I remember the smell of the cigars my uncle used to smoke in the front room after dinner, the way nan used to be wearing her apron over the top of her new outfit all day long because she was in and out of the kitchen preparing a vast array of food for every hour of the day (you always left her house feeling a dress size larger than when you’d gone in!)
Having said that, isn’t it what life is all about? Having wonderful memories of your own childhood to reminisce about while creating memories for your children? There’s still so many times I see things and think nan would like that, or granddad would, or my uncle, or my great grandmother or my great aunt, but now there’s also things I see that make me think J would like that, or my nephew would, or my niece would.
As these three grow up I’d love them to enjoy a magical time every Christmas, and will be trying to make sure they each have wonderful memories too.
|J with my nephew A|
My niece R