I love Christmas. I’ve heard many people recently saying that they hate it, and that the day doesn’t live up to expectations. Opinion seems to be divided about whether children make Christmas. Those who don’t have children, or whose children have grown up and left home, say that they think the day would be more fun if there were children around. Those who have children say they are too exhausted to enjoy the day themselves.
I’m not including everyone in these statements. I know several people who enjoy Christmas as much as I do, but more than half of my acquaintances this year have said they’d be happier if Christmas didn’t happen. I find this hard to understand. Apart from the fact that it happens in the middle of winter (my least favourite season), Christmas is my favourite time of year. I think for most people who hate it, it’s the “expectations” part that is the biggest problem…they build it up into an impossibly perfect occasion, and then can’t fail to be disappointed when the day doesn’t live up to it.
This is perhaps why I’ve not grown to hate it as I’ve got older. I have no expectations. That doesn’t mean Christmas isn’t special though. When I was a child it was a magical occasion. On Christmas morning my brother and I used to find mince pie crumbs and carrots with reindeer teeth marks in, glittery fairy footprints, and on one notable occasion presents up the chimney!
But I’ve been brought up in family that doesn’t believe in planning things in fine detail – we’ve always taken each day as it comes and made plans at the last minute, so there are no family Christmas traditions which much be followed no matter what.
We’re even blasé about the date of Christmas. Before we each got married, my brother and I used to spend Christmas together with our parents. However, my brother is a nurse and often had to work on 25th December. Not a problem for us. We just moved Christmas Day. In my family Christmas Day has occurred on 24th, 26th, 27th and 28th December, as well as the more traditional 25th, depending on the shifts that Richard happened to be working. I think if you don’t even expect Christmas to fall on a certain date, everything else is bound to be a laid-back affair!
My dad doesn’t like turkey, so for me Christmas and turkey have never gone hand in hand. I’ve had turkey for Christmas dinner for the last couple of years and it’s been a real novelty. We didn’t cook it ourselves though, so there was no pressure. My husband and I went to the pub with my parents for Christmas dinner this year and last – so we had waitress service, a lovely Christmas atmosphere because everybody there was so relaxed, and no washing up to worry about afterwards. The pub we chose was within walking distance of our houses, so this year we strolled there and back. Last year we trudged there through thick snow, but it was still fun. In fact the walk back after dinner helped us avoid that stuffed eaten-too-much-and-can’t-move feeling.
Christmas dinners in the past have included roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, curry, fajitas, and pork pie chips and beans. One year we wrapped up warm and had a picnic on Ilkley Moor, and we had a great time. But we did it because on that particular Christmas Day that’s what we fancied doing – we didn’t do anything because it was expected of us.
So – if there are no rules, what does Christmas mean to me? If it doesn’t have to be different to any other day, why is it special? Why do I like it so much? It’s simple: it’s a time of year when I don’t have to go to work, when I don’t have to feel guilty about not working, and when I have plenty of time to spend with my family. Yes, I have good food to eat, and yes I get lots of lovely presents, but for me it’s all about family. This year on Christmas Day, Ian and I spent some quality time together before visiting my Nan and my uncle. Then we had dinner with my mom and dad, and I saw my brother, sister-in-law, niece, and mother-in-law-in-law. On Boxing Day we went to Nottingham to see Ian’s sister, and played in the park with her two dogs. For me there is nothing better in the whole world than spending time with family. I have the best husband a girl could wish for, the best parents in the world, a Nan and Uncle I love to bits and a brother I think the world of. He married a girl I love enough to call Sister instead of sister-in-law, and my niece is the kindest, most loving, thoughtful child I know. My husband’s sister is fun to spend time with and we get on like a house on fire. When I got to spend my Christmas surrounded by all these people, how could I be disappointed?