As a child I used to wake up on Christmas morning to feel the weight of a full stocking on my feet. The excitement of pulling that stocking upwards towards me and slowly dipping in and out to reveal the treasures within always filled me with joy. The end of the stocking always had a satsuma in the toes ~ a little nutrition to counter the chocolate I suppose.
Dads socks were always used as they were RAF issue and quite long and stretchy ~ a great bonus for us it was always full to bursting. Mum was great at buying little stocking fillers and carried on doing stockings for us well into our teens. When I was pregnant with my first daughter I had a special Christmas stocking full of baby items which was overwhelming at the time, hitting home that I was carrying a little human in my belly!
As mum loved Christmas we never were without, she loved giving as much as receiving ~ the best bit, she said, was watching us opening the gifts she had thoughtfully chosen and wrapped and watching our reactions. The fridges and freezers were always bulging, crammed full of normally forbidden luxuries. Our Christmas breakfast was always smoked salmon, scrambled egg, granary toast and bucks fizz. Then later Christmas dinner lasted hours as it was always three courses with chatting and story telling in the breaks between as we allowed each course to settle before attempting the next. Side tables were laden full of snacks, nuts, chocolates and candied fruits. The house decorated with holly, ivy, mistletoe and all manner of other decorations, always jolly and like a mini grotto. Neighbours and friends would pop in and out throughout the day and the house was always full of laughter.
I do think that Christmas is best when children are around, their squeals of joy and laughter warm the cockles ~ then they nap when the thrills of the day have finally exhausted them, allowing the adults to have a few drinks and play games or chat without distractions.
When the girls were young we spread Christmas out over three days as they would get a Santa sack each from each set of Grandparents. Not to overwhelm them we decided to open a few each day and allow them to play with their gifts for a while before opening any more. More often than not it was the boxes the gifts came in more than the gifts that they played with! Tara, my youngest, loved smarties and once she found some that was that ~ no more presents until she had finished them. The girls, hand on heart, preferred the simple practical gifts more than the faddy expensive ones. That is. with the exception of the Tellytubbies and the Tweenies ~ Dave, myself, mum and dad would go to ToysRUs and each pick up one of the set (as each person was limited to purchasing only one toy from the set as demand was so high) and pretending not to know each other as we each went to different checkouts. The three girls loved their toys and between them played with them until they were battered and worn.
As they grew older and toys were too babyish for them we discovered clothes and jewellery or make~up were appreciated more. Now as adults they appreciate anything we give them but, and I don’t know if this is a generation thing, they would prefer one small gift from secret Santa and donations to local charities and homeless shelters instead of further gifts.
As all three are now adults they have work commitments and other people they want to spend time with. This makes it difficult finding a date when all three girls are free to spend time together as a family. When we do we love to go out to eat so that no one has to cook or wash up. Conversation never lulls and laughter and silliness always ensue. I love spending time with my girls, they are all fabulous, funny and interesting people to be around and conversations go in weird and wonderful directions.
I hope that in the future we will be blessed with grandchildren and would love to go back to filling magical stockings for them and finding simple gifts that they would love and that can be handed down or given to charity after they have moved on from them.
What strikes me the most as I look back at Christmases past is that how we used to celebrate ~ it wasn’t all about the presents but focused on sharing time as a family. We always played games, different ones being added to the collection each year ~and of course the ritual of playing at least an hour of charades. I remember the first year Twister came out and the laughter as we contorted ourselves around each other, each determined to win the game. Operation and Buckaroo followed plus board games like Trivial Pursuit.
I feel like a real Debbie Downer saying this ~ but is it just me or has Christmas become more about presents than being together as families? Do people still play games together or do they just share presents and then switch on the TV and ignore each other until it’s time to eat, drink and fall asleep?
With each passing year I am become more and more angry about adverts calling for us to spend our precious income on more and more extravagant gifts. I have stopped sending out Christmas cards altogether and instead wish those I am in touch with a happy holiday either by message or phone call. I’m more aware than ever about wastefulness and reducing the paper trail when not necessary. I opt for text or email notifications regarding hospital appointments etc instead of the letters ~ anything to do my bit in reducing using up our resources.
When it comes to gifting I try to find something modest to convey my love but without extravagance. We don’t have a great spendable income, most of it is on paper ~ not in our wallets or purse. I am starting to feel that I am sometimes buying gifts just for the sake of it, because it’s expected. The thing is, many of the folk we buy for within the family don’t really need or want anything and so whatever you buy is really surplus to requirements. So why give them something ~ why not donate something to a local charity instead?
This year, as a family, the five of us have decided that surplus gifting is silly and so have done a secret Santa, that way we all only buy one present ~ we have made a ceiling cost of £20 and it has to be thoughtful and something that the recipient will appreciate. This makes gifting fun and challenging, finding that one gift within the price range means we have to be creative with it.
When it comes to extended family I have an agreement with my sister and brother ~ we don’t buy for each other but we each give £20 to each of our offspring from each other, £50 on 18th & 21st. We have agreed to stop giving to our children from each other once they have had their 21st birthday. Until then we all either buy a gift to that value or give them the cash from each of us.
My father and Dave’s father plus their partner and wife have everything they need ~ so what we did is take them out for a special three course meal this year and will do so each year thereafter for Christmas. To spend a lovely meal with them chatting and laughing is more valuable than giving them something in a box.
Our intention now is to donate to local charities and homeless shelters each year instead of to our extended families ~ with the exception of the young children, who we will continue to buy for. As for the five of us ~ Dave and the girls are agreed on making Secret Santa our new tradition. We will instead focus on being together and spending quality time with each other. Time which is precious as they are slowly moving further away and become their own independent selves with new paths ahead of them and new people and partners in their lives.
I have a small group of internet friends who I value enormously, their friendship is special and came at a time when they were most welcomed into my life. They have shared my highs and lows with me, laughed with me and understood my black moods on less happy times. I don’t see them in the physical sense but our virtual friendship is as real and precious to me all the same. For them, the three special women who will know who they are if they are reading this, I like to buy for. I would like to send them something physical to show them how much I value them ~ I like to look for gifts that I think they would like ~ what I find fascinating is that they are all so very different but yet they share a common core of belief and spirituality that ties them together in my mind and heart. I tend to buy them similar gifts because of this trait and hope that I get the gifts right.
Perhaps its my age, seeing people pass away who I used to know from school days, making me see life differently. Life is so precious and none of us know which day will be our last ~ which makes it all the more important that we take the time to look around and appreciate the small things around us. To give people the time of day, to look at them and really see them. To remove the toxic people from our lives and focus on the ones who count. I appreciate now more than ever the simplicity of standing outside in the middle of a field, breathing in the air, the scents around me of leaves, plants and flowers, the damp, the fresh, the crisp. Making dragon breath and appreciating the trees above me and the very wonders of nature. The clouds, the skies, the sun, the moon, the very essence of the changing seasons and weather, noting it, marvelling at it and enjoying it.
To me, right now, life is about taking in the moment, not wasting anything and embracing everything. Finding peace where there was none before, working to be in harmony and balance with all around me.
In short, I am being, I am present and I hope to remain so for so many more years ~ but if it is not to be then at least I can say I lived a good life, a worthy life and touched those around me. I hope when I do pass I have left little pieces within those I love to carry on beyond my physical life. Where my spirit goes I have no idea, but I do believe it will leave my body and go elsewhere.
December may hold demons but with each passing year I am quelling them. I am using the spirit of the Christmas holiday as one to remember those now gone and make the most of being with those who remain. It is not a religious time for me but a spiritual one.
Until my demise I will milk every moment of life and make it count. It’s not what I do in life but how I do it that counts.
I love this poem I found here by Maria Pavy and so will end on it..
It is dangerous to underestimate the value of this life.
It is dangerous to belittle the opportunities to overcome strife.
Life is fragile.
When it is lost, it is hard to know how to respond.
Confusion in the midst of the chaos is not something fore longed.
Anger can get in the way of forgiveness.
Sadness in the way of strength.
A new life in the concentration of a dead one.
Death is the greatest thief of joy.
It is a pain that stings deeply without being coy.
But there is reconciliation through community.
Direct communication can act on hurt as immunity.
But here is my issue.
We get so absorbed in ourselves that it causes us to lose our sense of humanity.
With hashtags and emojis, the words we type have no genuinity.
Someone passes away,
We post a picture on Instagram.
We say what we feel through something manmade.
Want to express feelings that will never fade?
If you care about someone it shouldn’t be told through a phone.
After a tragedy, we all need to know we are not alone.
Instead of simply posting a picture to be apart of the mix,
Do something, anything, to make the situation fixed.
Tell someone about how the choices they make will affect them.
Every person has value, purpose and then some.
The only way to change our community is to form together.
Be the change or else friction will only tether.
Don’t just tweet about it.
It’s one conversation that’s not lighter.
It’s one memory we hold tighter.
It’s one opportunity to make this world a little brighter.