Christmas is but a few jolly days away. As with most children, I used to anticipate the holiday with unsurpassed excitement. My little body would shake with titillation in the run up to Christmas Day- Christmas Eve nearly gave me an aneurysm and/or a hernia. We placed the traditional milk and cookies by the fireplace (with a carrot for the poor reindeer who must be exhausted from pulling a fat guy round the world), put the stockings at the end of our beds and smile wistfully as Dad read ‘Twas the Night before Christmas.’ But no amount of hot milk and bedtime stories could calm us over-anxious kids.
The big day would arrive and after a few hours of restless sleep, I jumped from my blankets and clambered into my parent’s bed. I opened my stocking while my parents smiled obediently over my shoulder ‘Ooing’ and ‘Aahing’ over all my new treasures. A stack of presents under a beautifully decorated tree, new toys, Christmas crackers, paper crowns and a big family roast later (Grandparents included), another perfect Christmas day would be complete- Picture the Disney channel’s Christmas special complete with Boney M tunes and lots of Christmas love.
However, as the years go by, the Disney vision seems to be blurring into the midnight film on Fox. Christmas Eve is a montage of alcohol and cheese boards, followed by a neighbourhood get together and a drunken squawk-along to Christmas carols…or at least I think that is what happens. To be honest, I usually pass out after the first chorus of Jingle Bells somewhere between the kitchen and living room.
The next day, the clamber into my parent’s bed is more of a hungover swagger and their smiles seem less genuine the bigger I get. My siblings sleep till noon and I still sit anxiously in front of the tree, although again, this seems less appropriate the closer I get to 30. When everyone finally rises, someone says ‘It’s midday somewhere’ and the drinking begins again (hair of the dog and all that…). Breakfast, presents (Something practical of course…although I was hoping for Malibu Barbie) followed by h’ors d’ouerves and the Queen’s speech (raise a glass to Preddie’s past)…tears… and we all retire to our separate rooms, unsure of how to interact with each other during this unspecified activity time.
It is the annual culinary creations day for Mum, a task she dreads more and more with every passing year- I think she would prefer a nuclear holocaust. Her frustration is less than subtle as she slams around the kitchen, f-ing and blinding, refusing the assistance of a sous chef, although I am not entirely sure I want to be in the vicinity. My mother, a strong powerful woman, becomes a terrifying, tearful mess, seeming strangely small among mountains of pots and pans, potatoes and plum sauce. As with most tornadoes, it is best to take cover under the stairs or a table.
The traditional Boney M Christmas tunes collect dust on the shelf, the memory of Christmas past too much to bear. The family, now the core five, sit round the table, too full or too drunk (that’s usually me) from lunch to eat but pushing the stodge into our faces with fear of rousing the now quieted beast. Paper crowns ‘aren’t cool’ and no one gets the joke in the cracker. A conflict ensues over ‘Please pass the gravy’ and someone comments on the empty chairs round the table previously filled by Grandma and Granddad…Cheers! Tears!… Roll on Christmas pudd (Marks and Sparks original) covered in Brandy, set on fire then put in the fridge until someone throws it away sometime in March.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still an anticipated day- it is fun to share the holiday anti-climax with your nearest and dearest. I love my family more than anything in the world (sorry shoes…) and there is no where I would rather spend such a chaotic, emotional, alcohol filled day than in my childhood home with the people who are as crazy as me. One day, I will get married, have a family of my own and my traditions will change. I will have to stay sane (and sober) in front of the in laws who will have a tearless Christmas void of racist jokes and the creation of inappropriate limericks. I will take on a new Christmas role with new traditions- this is an inevitable truth. This runs through my head as I sit watching my stuffing swim in the congealed gravy on my plate.
More booze…Dad asleep on the couch, siblings ignoring the dirty crockery (Guitar Hero!!!) and Mum retiring to her room to reminisce about the way Christmas used to be. Another successful family Christmas.
Me? I can be found still under the table with a glass of wine…playing with Malibu Barbie.