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Christmas Past

I have struggled to get into Christmas mode this year for some reason. Not sure why, normally I love this time of year and do not need much encouragement to get out the tinsel. Like a lot of people I do like Christmas and the whole atmosphere of temporary insanity that seems to grip the country for a few weeks even if many of the people celebrating don’t really think that they are engaging in what is nominally a religious festival. A lot of it is self- perpetuating and not just by people selling something but also because people like tradition. Many of us moan about having to buy and send cards and covering our houses with decorations of various degrees of tackiness. The Lovely Wife and I are no different. I love buying presents and hate wrapping them, as anyone who has ever received a present from me will probably be able to tell from the lack of care in the wrapping.

We’ve just gone through let another ritual and put the tree up: the boxes of decorations – some of great antiquity – have come down from the loft; the Christmas Duck is once more strapped, helpless, to the top of the tree having spent the rest of the year quashed in a Lyle’s Golden syrup tin (no life that really, I would admit). There is the moment of excitement every year when I put the batteries back in the farting Santa and a moment of intense disappointment from the Lovely Wife when he still works (although I do understand why she would like to see him consigned to landfill and over the years the dye has leached from his costume onto his white beard transforming him more into a zombie Santa on the rampage). Decorations made by God daughters and son when they were very much tinier than they are now come out and are greeted like long lost friends. Unicorns, pandas and elephants hang on various limbs of the tree reminding me of exhibitions attended, places visited and people missed.

Ah, people missed. My late mother adored Christmas. She would buy presents – nothing big, things she saw in catalogues mostly, especially when she became largely housebound – but she would buy them all year round, squirreling them away from my Dad and I in draws and cupboards, sometimes so effectively that she forgot entirely about some of them herself; after she passed away and we helped Dad go through everything we found a few things that obviously had been intended as future gifts. Christmas morning was one of her favourite times I think; she had always cooked the turkey on Christmas Eve and stripped the carcass, so she was not under any cooking pressure, so the morning could be dedicated to an orgy of ripping paper off a host of low value presents. Initially this would be mostly presents for me, but as I lurched into adulthood it became for a while something of a competition between my Mother and I as to how could buy the most presents. Meanwhile my Dad would look on bemused and worry about whether his relatives coming later for Christmas dinner would be in a argumentative mode this year (not with him or my Mum – she always kept a low profile – it was with each other there might be trouble). So much was this a special time for my parents that when I came home from university one year they got me out of bed to open their presents, something of a reversal of my adolescent years where 6am was just about what I could get away with.

Christmas is not the same for me without Mum; Dad does not really celebrate it now, preferring to celebrate with us in early January when he has his birthday. I can enjoy the season with my Lovely Wife and her family; I have carried on some of my Mother’s traditions. Maybe if I think a little more about here this year the Christmas spirit might begin to flow a bit more markedly.

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