I’ll try and keep this as un-Liz-Jones-like as possible.
|A rather fuzzy picture of our tree|
I love Christmas. I really do. I’m like a child, almost everything about it excites me – the food, the tree, the fairy-lights, the cheesy films. Mainly the food and the fact that it’s ok to start drinking at 11am, but most of it gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling.
I think this is mostly because the Christmases of my childhood were epic. They lasted for weeks, or so it seemed. I lived with my grandmother for the first few years of my life, and even when I was with my mum and stepdad, I still spent most of the school holidays with Gran. She made two Christmas puddings and a huge breeze-block of a Christmas cake every year, and helping her ice it was my job. She wrote dozens of cards, and received dozens back – they’d be hung on string along every wall downstairs, and then we’d run out of room and have to start putting them upstairs. In the last few days before the 25th, she’d drive pretty much all over West Sussex, delivering presents and cards to friends and family. On the day itself, she’d cook one huge turkey, or sometimes two slightly smaller ones, in her trusty Aga (God, I miss that Aga), and there would be at least twelve of us sitting down to lunch. Invariably someone would have to have theirs on their lap, armchair pulled as close to ‘the Big Table’ as possible.
In the afternoon, we’d open presents – except for my grandfather, who’d be incredibly uninterested in his, and finally get around to opening them in February – and perhaps try and play a game of Scrabble or Monopoly. In fact, about the only thing that did get a response from Gramps was if someone tried to fish the coffee creams out of the Quality Street (I don’t think they still do them). That someone was invariably me.
The evening would always find Gran in the kitchen, making people sandwiches with cold turkey or ham, regardless of whether they were hungry or not. She and her younger brother would start on the gin, and that would start them arguing, or energetically ‘debating’ politics. I always joined them – that’s where the ham and cheese were – and sometimes when I’m tipsily debating current affairs with my friends now, I can see exactly where I came from.
So yeah. Those Christmases were brilliant.
Now of course, it’s different. A year passes slightly quicker, so it’s not such an event – more “oh, it’s Christmas again”. I’ve said before that I’m definitely a winter person, so I still have a certain fondness for this twinkly, red-and-gold time of year. I have mixed feelings about it now though – Gran is, naturally, too elderly to be hosting guests and cooking for twelve, and Gramps has been gone nearly ten years. For I think what might be the first time ever, it’s just going to be me, the parents and the siblings this year. The last few years, we’ve had Gran, my aunt and my uncle to ours, but this year, it’s just us. In theory, this should mean my mother won’t have a stress-induced psychotic break in the kitchen at 11am on Christmas morning – but I know her better than that. In theory, I should be looking forward to it – but as we’ve never been the kind of family that actually does things together, I don’t know how it’s going to go. When friends tell me they have plans with their families over Easter, for example, I find myself trying not to look at them as though they’re utterly mad. The sheer amount of family-related things most people do over Christmas also baffles me – not because I don’t understand that half the point of Christmas is being with one’s family, but because the five of us are all so, so different, and rarely do anything as a group. Being with someone who’s got four siblings and is part of a very close family makes me both jealous and claustrophobic. (I should note here that his family have never been anything but absolutely wonderful to me.)
On the other hand, though, the idea of being separated from loved ones at this time of year is horrible. I can’t imagine being in a long-distance relationship, for instance, or having a relative in the Forces. It must be spectacularly difficult to be parted from those you love at this time, because Christmas brings with it the almost unfightable urge to return ‘home’.
I’m quite looking forward to the time when I can look at the Boy in about October and go “OK, where are we spending Christmas this year?” That’s going to be good. (And if he ever says “The Maldives, with no-one we’re related to” then BONUS POINTS FOR HIM.)
I also really want you to hear Thea Gilmore’s version of ‘The St Stephen’s Day Murders’, because it’s another cracking Christmas song, but I can’t find a decent video, so Google is your friend here, I’m afraid.