It’s difficult to believe, isn’t it, that this time next week it will be Christmas Eve? Truth be told, I’ve been trying not to think about it galloping towards me as I am so far behind with my preparations and, as the days whizz past, I have to control the urge to hyperventilate into a paper-bag or slide into oblivion on a wave of mulled wine – the latter always the more appealing.
I think my lack of preparation is down to a series of things. I have been busy with the promotion of my Christmas novella, The Gift of Christmas Yet to Come, and the Write Romantics charity anthology, Winter Tales, currently a complete bargain at 98p. But it’s not just that, things have shifted in my household. All but the youngest of my four children is no longer a believer in you-know-who and for the first time, in I don’t know how long, it will be just the six of us on Christmas day. We’ll be joining the extended family on Boxing Day, but the big day itself is just about us and what we want.
The question is, when everyone stops being involved in leaving out carrots for the reindeer and mince pies for Santa, what do they want to do instead? We’ve started by talking about what to eat. We’re having a traditional Christmas dinner on Boxing Day, cooked by my lovely mum-in-law, so we’re free to choose what we want on the 25th. So far, the children’s lunch time order looks like this:
• One full English – hold the mushrooms and tomatoes
• Steak and chicken wings
• Coronation chicken
• Chinese Takeaway – reheated from the night before!
Not sure I’ll be joining any of my children in their choices, but we are starting to make new traditions for ourselves now that they are getting older. To-the-death dance-offs on the Wii have replaced Mr Pop and plain old Monopoly has been usurped by the One Direction version – I know far more about those five boys than a woman of my years really should… The children can now stay up late enough to make midnight mass, but the crib service, in full fancy dress as a shepherd or angel, no longer holds such appeal.
And yet, the fundamentals haven’t really changed. So the non-believers know that the only similarity between Santa Claus and the giver of their gifts, these days, is rather more padding around the midriff than is good for you, but they enjoy the exchange as much as ever. The games have changed, but it’s still all about laughing and out of proportion competitiveness, which arises from a combination of sibling rivalry and competitive dad syndrome. Clichéd as it sounds, it is all about being together as a family that’s really important. If further proof of my theory that the heart of things stays the same is needed, I read a story this week that proves that nothing really changes, it just wears a new (Christmas) hat.
It goes something like this… The history of St Nicholas is that one of his first acts of giving, which generated the legend who became Santa, back in the 4th century, occurred after he heard of a man too poor to allow his three daughters to marry. Late one night, Nicholas went to their house and threw a bag of coins down the chimney allowing the eldest daughter to marry. Eventually, he repeated the gesture for the second and third of the man’s daughters.
Fast forward 1700 years or so and the staff of St Oswald’s Charity Shop in Blaydon have followed St Nicholas’s lead and made two of their colleagues’ dreams come true. Paula Kunes and Ellis Taylor have been working together in the charity shop since Ellis was made redundant four years ago and thought they would never be able to afford to get married. But some modern day saints, in the form of their workmates, gave the pair the money to tie the knot making it a Christmas they’ll surely remember forever.
So you see, things may seem to change, but Christmas is still Christmas and at the heart of it is love in one form or another. This must mean there’s no need to panic about not being ready, right? Now did anyone see where I put that paper bag…