We all love Christmas.
Well, most of us love Christmas.
Erm; a decreasing number of us love Christmas.
I loved Christmas as a child.
I still love it.
I cherish the story that I wrote at infant school about how I got a scooter from Father Christmas – with pictures too. I can remember the bright blue paint, clean and unsullied. I rode that scooter round the streets until it eventually fell apart and was beyond repair.
I think that may have been the Christmas that I got a Teeny Tiny Tears too – considerably smaller than Tiny Tears but she still had the capacity to cry and wee once you had filled up the water reservoir in the middle of her back.
This could have caused me to grow up with some very strange notions about how babies took on and expelled water but luckily I had baby cousins who dispelled those notions the first time I watched my aunt changing a nappy.
There were rules about Christmas in our house.
We didn’t start it too early – usually around the weekend nearest the tenth of December – the Chinese lanterns and crepe paper streamers were unearthed and strung around the room.
Christmas wasn’t a real Christmas without the tree lights malfunctioning. A vivid Yuletide memory is of my Dad swearing quietly under his breath as he tried to track down the wayward bulb. We knew instinctively to keep out of the way until the tree lit up, at which point we would all appear and make noises of glee and approval.
Christmas Eve was special.
We used to go to the house of one of my aunts; it started off in a quiet way with sandwiches and nibbles. Giggling with our cousins at our great-aunt when she took her false teeth out and flicked fag ash into the peanuts (given a very wide berth by us knowing children but we didn’t tell the adults – cue more giggling).
Over the years, as their family expanded and they moved to a bigger house, my aunt and uncle’s pre-Christmas celebrations grew as well. My uncle was Polish and introduced much of his heritage to the rest of the family at their parties.
Polish sausage, pickled herring, Bigos (ham and sauerkraut stew) and (shudder) brawn.
The sight of the pig’s head boiling away in the kitchen to make the brawn left me reluctant to even sample a tiny bit.
The peanuts were safe from fag ash now, the great-aunt had smoked her way into another place.
I miss those Christmas Eves; the joy of meeting up with the family and putting presents under the tree, buffet browsing Anglo-Polish style and pinching the odd glass of sherry when no one was looking.
Blessed as I am with a bevy of beautiful and talented cousins, I think that the reason we are so close – despite geographical distances – is because of those Christmas Eve parties.
It was usually Christmas Day by the time we left, tired and giddy and clutching carrier bags of presents that we weren’t allowed to open till the morning with the other presents that Father Christmas would be bringing.
Of all the Christmas Days I enjoyed as a child, the one that sticks in my memory is the Christmas When Every Thing Went Wrong.
The day began with the sprouts (eurgh) melted the plastic colander.
Then it was discovered that my Lovely Mum had forgotten to take the giblets out of the turkey before she cooked it. They were in a plastic bag. Mum invented an early form of shrink wrap.
Dad put too much alcohol on the Christmas pudding and rather than burning with a bright blue flame, it incinerated to a black shrivelled lump.
Needless to say, tempers were frayed.
My Dad shouted.
My Lovely Mum hit him with a rolled up newspaper.
The dog, unsure if this was domestic violence or just a playfight, decided that it needed to be stopped.
So he bit Lovely Mum on the arm.
Things went very quiet after that. The dog went out in the garden very quickly and Mum’s arm went under the tap – bruised but not bloodied.
There was also a strict rule about when the decorations came down.
I know a lot of people take them down as soon as they can – after New Year’s Day usually – but as Lovely Mum’s birthday was on the 4th January, we left them up for her and had a mad dash to get them down and put away before Twelfth Night. Although Lovely Mum has left us, I still leave my decorations up till after her birthday.
I do like Christmas really.
Christmas carols make me cry; in my semi-religious phase I couldn’t get through Midnight Communion without blubbing – ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ gets me every time and ‘Silent Night’ – I’m welling up just thinking about it..
Little school choirs singing in shopping malls turn me to a gibbering wreck .
I never managed to stay dry-eyed during either of my children’s nativity plays and had to make sure that I always wore a large scarf to absorb my tears and hide my quivering lip.
“Oh Mother – you are SO embarrassing!”
So why the grumpy title?
It’s only the 28th October!
Just under two months till Christmas.
So why are the shops full of Christmas stuff? Poor old Halloween is being shuffled into a side aisle.So unfair to think of skulls, witches and ghouls being ousted by snow-persons, fat robins and Father Christmas.
Shops are beginning to play ‘Now That’s What I Call Christmas’ on an endless loop that drives the salespeople bonkers and does not encourage a festive spirit because we’ve all heard the tunes SO many times before. Even the starving poor across the world will know that it is Christmas because of that flipping song!
Now this is the bit where I show myself to be a hypocrite. Having moaned about the early incursion of Christmas into the shopping arena – I cashed in on it.
Two years ago we got rid of our huge holly berried and fir-coned false Christmas tree and bought a nice fibre optic 1 metre high tree that needed very little in the way of decoration and took less than ten minutes to put up.
I loved that little tree.
We had to get the decorations down a bit sharpish as, for the first time ever, we were flying off on holiday for the New Year and couldn’t face the idea of unpacking, washing and undecking the halls.
I don’t know what happened to my little tree.
We hunted high and low in the run up to last Christmas but it was nowhere to be found so we went off to the garden centre to get a replacement.
All the nice trees were gone and a real tree was out of the question, as Scooby had come to live with us and we weren’t quite sure if he could differentiate between an outside tree and an inside one.
We continued our search but by this time it was mid-December and they were beginning to set out the Easter egg displays.
We settled for a slightly larger tree that appeared to be fibre optic and looked as if it could stand the vigors of tail lashing and large-male bashing.
It was a hideous monster tree and what I thought were fibre optic lights turned out to be translucent globs on the ends of the branches.
Every branch had to be fluffed out and attached to one of the three stems that made up the body of the tree. The fake fir was rough on the fingers and I broke two nails trying to insert the branches. When we finally got it upright it was HUGE and very drab, so we had to go out and buy MORE decorations for it. Of course, by this time there were hardly any decorations left, just a mish mash of broken or ugly coloured baubles. We could have used Easter eggs I suppose.
Bezzie Mate and went for lunch at my favourite garden centre a couple of weeks ago and I noticed that they had the mock-Christmas trees on display. Against my better judgement but fuelled by a decent lunch, we had a rummage in the festive section but they didn’t have the tree I wanted.
Undaunted we drove down the road to the bigger garden centre (more choice but the cafe is more like a transport cafe and always seems to be full of screaming kids).
My heart leapt; we had barely got in the door when I spied my long-lost tree shimmering amongst its larger (and uglier) fir-y brethren.
BM toddled off for a browse amongst some boots and I combed the centre desperately seeking an assistant. I found one but he was having an intense conversation about bulbs with a very demanding woman who kept grabbing his forearm. He didn’t seem to mind though.
I got bored then and had a competition with myself to find the most tacky Christmas decoration in the store. It was a toss-up between some very ugly opaque white rigid plastic trees of about 6 inches and an array of ‘fibre-optic Christmas tapestries’. Closer inspection revealed them to be printed material pictures with lights in funny places. They were the winners but they were all hideous I couldn’t choose the worst.
My assistant was free!
I took him to my tree and asked if he could find me one that was boxed up. He took the tag and disappeared.
I went in search of BM who was in the process of falling for some stout walking boots that were half-price.
My assistant returned toting a long white box. He turned it round to look at the picture and check that he had the right one.
He had the wrong one and disappeared again into the bowels of the garden centre.
We carried on browsing but feared the worst when he returned with a furrowed brow.
“I can’t find it.”
“But you have one on display. You can’t have sold out of them yet? “
“No, they’ve only just come in but it wasn’t where it should have been. If you want to reserve one, we could call you when we find it?”
I’ve been caught like this before. I reserved something then turned up to find that another member of staff had sold it because they thought it was a returned item.
“Can I pay for one now? Then I can come in and collect it when you find one.”
“Oh – erm – okay.”
So I bought it and filled in all number of forms with my name, address and telephone number.
By this time, BM and I were exhausted and had to test out a range of conservatory furniture before toddling home for homemade curry.
I got a phone call a couple of days later to say that they had found my tree. Hub and I went to collect it and found that with his (not-very-constant) gardener card, they could knock off a further eight pounds! We also bought BM’s boots and sent them off to him because they weren’t on sale online. They rub one of his ankles.
I admire people who get all their Christmas presents in the January sales – almost as much as I admire those who dash around the store on Christmas Eve snapping up ‘bargains’.
Hub is notoriously hard to buy for. He only really wants paintball bits – although now he and Gap Boy are sharing a motorbike there might be some mileage there. GB has already started demanding his Christmas presents. Uni Boy is home this weekend but I doubt that he will come up with anything helpful.
Ah, but I am blessed with good friends who like silly things, and an adorable bunch of small children and babies who can revitalise my Christmas spirit.
Mine’s a very large sherry please.