Monday, December 19, 2011

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas


A quick glimpse at my blog tells me what I always knew would happen, namely that my initial enthusiasm would wane and the frequency of posts would decrease accordingly.  Nevertheless, I’m not one to give up so easily, and what better subject to rekindle my desire to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) than the approach of Christmas?

God knows, I’m not a religious man (see what I did there?), but I like Christmas.  I do, I like the run up to it and I like the day itself.  I don’t much like Boxing Day (apart from the re-heated Christmas lunch which always tastes better second time round), and I can’t abide all the advertising which seems to start around September.  Have you noticed how some TV Christmas ads have become an event in themselves? What on earth is the world coming to? And I don’t like the forced bonhomie served up by the television, or by some of my work colleagues for that matter (you know, the ones who would happily stab you in the back at any other time of year and then want to exchange Christmas cards with you).

So what do I like about it? Well, memories I suppose.  I’m quite a nostalgic person.  There are some areas of my past I prefer to block out, but Christmas isn’t one of them.  When I was a child I loved the excitement of putting out a pillow case on Christmas eve. I knew it would contain as a minimum a white sugar mouse, a couple of tangerines (really!), sixpence in shiny new pennies (I’m sounding like my own grandfather now), a box of something like Matchmakers, and of  course the ‘main present’.

I hankered at one point for a Johnny Seven gun.  I’d seen them in the shops, I’d seen them on TV.  I even knew a boy who had one, the lucky bastard.  I never got one, but around that age I did get a train set so the disappointment didn’t last too long. Mind you, as every other gift from my relatives that year was a train set accessory, it’s just as well I was pleased with what I got.

In my late teens, Christmas was far more about the pubs staying open late on Christmas Eve and the ritual midnight snogging of every girl you fancied. I would generally sleep the next day until it was time to get up and pick at my lunch, being much too hungover to do it justice. Even at that age I was still slightly annoyed if lunch wasn’t over and done with before the hour long special edition of Top of the Pops came on the box, during which those appalling self-absorbed Radio One DJs would review the hits of the past year.  It seems sad now that the programme should have had such an importance, but this was in the days before MTV, and my record collection was pretty dismal. 

Years later I had the pleasure of seeing my own young children enjoying the tree decorating, putting out a mince pie and a glass of sherry for Santa (not forgetting a carrot for Rudolf), and the early morning excitement of opening their presents. And I got to appreciate the sentimentality of Christmas, mostly through reading Dickens who played no small part in making it a loving family occasion.  In the run up to Christmas each year I still get myself in the mood by reading an extract from ‘Pickwick Papers’, the first half of Chapter 28 to be precise: (link here) which contains the most marvellous and evocative description of a coach journey on a frozen Christmas Eve.

It’s a cliché, but to me Christmas is about family, by which I mean just me, my wife and sons. Those other family we care for we see during the year anyway, and those we don’t bother with at any other time are hardly likely to enhance our Christmas day. Now my boys are older it’s become one of the rare occasions in the calendar when we spend a few hours in each other’s company. And it’s worth it for that alone.

The Johnny Seven gun, which I coveted but never got. You have no idea how big a deal this was to a six year old.

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