On Christmas Eve 2020 at around 11pm, as I was sweatily wrapping presents last minute whilst simultaneously trying to stop my husband coming into the room, I realised I had royally screwed the pooch. I had mugged myself out of one of my favourite festive things to do: the official wrapping ritual.
The Christmas movies, mince pies – the wrapping paper, ribbons, labels – new clean pen – it’s a whole thing and it’s wonderful. I like it so much that I offer to wrap everyone else’s because man, I love to see how beautiful presents look once I’ve given them the TLC they deserve. And that’s even before they take their place under the tree.
But this year it was debatable whether Christmas would even happen and present giving was the last thing on our minds. Which makes sense and I know that’s not what it’s all about but I felt sad in that moment, that tradition had fallen away and our hearts just weren’t in it. It got me thinking a lot about traditions and how nice they are to have.
For me, after I’d moved out, the best bit was driving home for Christmas. It was never more than an hour’s drive but it was always the most exciting time. Finishing work, packing the car and heading ‘home’ to Mum’s, where all the family would be together, including the grandparents and the cousins, the uncles and the aunts. If we weren’t dining together on the day, there would be Christmas eve visits or Boxing Day hangs.
The day itself was incredibly well regimented and as kids we hated that. Now I’d give anything to have just one more day with us all together that way. People arrived at Mum’s house at 10.30, coffee and present giving at 11. The kids would always be tasked with dishing out the gifts and we’d all argue about doing it ‘cos we hated it. Then everyone would dig in, squealing in delight at receiving the things we wanted, scratching our heads at the oddities we didn’t. Nana and Gramps would give us money which was always a highlight as a teen (this would be the cider money). Then dinner would be served at 12pm on the dot.
The young people would get told off for putting their elbows on the table, my grandfather would start a diatribe about the Gurkas and tell at least one of us we were too overweight. We’d be finished and washing up by 1pm – and everyone would be gone by 3.30 – right after the Queen’s speech. Then our Christmas day could really begin. My brother and I would be off round our best friends’ (who were brother and sister) – and Mum would get the wine and fags out (secretly). And we’d be relieved we’d survived another family Christmas.
Now it’s usually just Glynn, Mum and I. Sometimes Beau and his mum. Sometimes Tim and Maddie. Low key and low hassle, though I still find a way to get stressed out in the kitchen. Somewhere along the way the traditions petered out and I think that’s really sad. Try as I might I haven’t been able to get into the festive mood this year and in part I think it’s because there are no longer any clearly defined traditions. I
‘m going to plan a bucket list for Christmas 2021 to try and inspire us but also find new ones. I have a feeling with the new house and new things happened within our family, this is going to be a lovely thing to do. I think they’re important and I’m mad at myself for letting the magic slip away. I want it back and I’m going to go out and find it again, so help me Santa.