Christmas is coming…

20 Dec

…but I’m stuck in that busy, stressful hell of finishing up work and getting sorted for our trip to Ireland for Christmas. So, despite feeling very festive last week, I’m feeling rather grinch-like today! But I know (or at least I’m hoping) I’ll get over it once the pre-holiday work stress abates.

What’s definitely more fun about this year is that my son is interested in what’s going on. While he’s not saying Santa or anything, he seems to be delighted with all the to-ing and fro-ing and general good cheer. He helped write (ie scrawl on) some cards. We took him to see Santa at London Zoo, complete with reindeers. His childminder has also taken him and the other children she minds to the Santa at the local shopping centre. He likes twiddling with the few decorations we’ve put up and helped me make paper snowflakes last week. We’ve exchanged small gifts and celebrated with friends and family we won’t see over Christmas and New Year. And on Thursday we’ve driving back to Cork, which will involve some hours of tedium in the car but the ferry will be fun. And of course it will be topped off with arrival at Granny’s house!
But becoming a parent has made me evaluate Christmas in a way I haven’t in the past. I’ve been thinking about what I loved about Christmas growing up and what I love about Christmas as an adult. I’ve talked to my husband about how he and his family celebrated Christmas. We’ve also spent a couple of Christmases with his family, so I’ve some experience of their traditions. Like a magpie, I’ve picked over the shiny bits from our pasts as I think about how we’ll create our own family’s traditions. So here are some thoughts on Christmas traditions I’d like our family to continue or develop.
– no matter where we live, there’ll be crackers. I love crackers. I love the silly paper hats and the thrill of pulling them. The lame jokes. They help make a Christmas dinner that bit more special.*
– dessert for Christmas dinner will feature trifle. My mum always makes trifle and, once I was old enough, I always helped. As an adult, that usually meant encouraging her to add more sherry than was wise (there have been years when the jelly wouldn’t set due to too much sherry – oops!). I will go out of my way to foster the same love of trifle in my children! **
– Santa will be Santa and not Father Christmas. I know some people think it’s an Americanism (something I wasn’t even aware of until I moved to London in 2000), but it was always Santa to me growing up. Well, it was more “Santee” but I figure my children won’t actually be growing up in Cork so I won’t try to make them say it that way! My husband is quite taken by all the English people around us talking about Father Christmas but to me it just sounds odd…
– Advent will be celebrated and I hope to make an Advent calendar by next year. The interactive element of the Advent calendar is so much fun. Though it’ll probably feature chocolate too!
– we’ll hang stockings on Christmas Eve. We didn’t do this growing up – we had pillow cases at the end of the bed that Santa delivered presents to – so stockings have an almost Victorian glamour for me. But my husband always had a stocking and his father always filled it with small, random gifts. And my husband now loves doing this for his own family.
– we’ll continue to collect single Christmas tree decorations from places we visit, as this is a tradition that myself and husband started together.
– I’ll do my best to get spiced beef onto the menu for Christmas dinner. Which is tricky as spiced beef is nigh on impossible to get outside of Cork but I’ll try…and if I can’t get it then I’ll talk about how good it is as I eat whatever dinner we’re having, in the style of a true expat Corkonian.
– we’ll try not to go overboard on the gifts. We already do a Kris Kringle amongst the family in Ireland and my in-laws, as Quakers, also keep gifts to a minimum. I remember from my own childhood that gifts are enjoyable, but aren’t the main focus of celebrations. I’ve also made gifts for my son for each of his two Christmases so far (a knitted teddy bear last year and a canvas bag screen printed with his initials this year) so perhaps that’s something I’ll try to keep up too.
– St Stephen’s Day (or Boxing Day to the Brits) will involve a long, brisk walk. Ideally somewhere coastal (as that’s what we did in Ireland and I love the sea in winter) but anywhere with a bit of nature will do. The perfect thing for clearing the head after Christmas Day.
Wow, writing this post as brought some Christmas cheer back to me! Now I just need to finish wrapping presents…
*We’re thinking about moving to the States next year, which has made me think about the things from Ireland & Britain I want to bring with me when we move, if you see what I mean. Crackers are on that list.
**We celebrated Christmas dinner in the States last year, which involved a great Christmas lunch of about 30 members of the family who each brought dishes. We made trifle and buying the ingredients was the trickiest thing. My mum just couldn’t believe that in America, land of bounty etc, we couldn’t find things as basic as Bird’s custard…

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