A couple of weeks ago, I started to write a great big ranty post about the long commercial run up to Christmas, having seen mince pies in the shops in September. I wrote so much, then lost my thread. I couldn’t work out what to say next. I was stumped and I had no idea why. Then, last week, I realised what my problem was. I couldn’t get indignant about the run up to Christmas because, actually, I love it! I love everything about the festive season, including the insanely long retail run up. I am one of those people. Sorry.
Last Sunday we went to a local garden centre (I know! I live the dream!). We walked through the store towards the onion sets, when I saw the Christmas decorations were out. I swear I may have even squealed, as I ran away from Ben and Oscar towards the glitter, shouting “I’ll see you later” without even turning my head. I had no plans to buy anything, just to look was enough for me. In October. I could not have been happier.
So anyway, since then, I’ve been wondering just why do I love the Christmas season so much? I say season as it’s not just the one day that gets me, but the planning (I love a good list as Ben will tell you) and the preparations. For me, I think it’s partly the aesthetics of the season (everything is just so much more beautiful at Christmas) and partly the the traditions. I love the the familiarity of old traditions, but I also love the excitement of creating new ones.
Ben and I were a family of two, for nearly 14 years and in that time we developed a couple of our own Christmas traditions. For example:
Decorating the tree before 12th December – kind of one I borrowed from my mum, but the tree must always be up in time for my birthday on 12th December. Decorating it usually involves me getting giddy with excitement and an argument about the lights. One thing it does not involve is tinsel. Despite my yearly protestations, Ben refuses to have tinsel on the tree – he thinks it looks tacky. And I married this man?
Starbucks list writing – we always used go to Starbucks to write the Christmas present list in about mid November. You cant beat a notebook, a cosy corner and a large Toffee Nut Latte to fill you with generous spirit.
Christmas chutney – making and giving chutney started one year when we were super broke, but still wanted to give presents to family and friends. It went down so well I’ve done it almost every Christmas ever since. I try and do a different recipe each year and October finds me looking through my Preserves and Pickles book. Chutney is culinary alchemy!
Buying a new decoration – when we started out we had no Christmas decorations and very little money. We bought some cheap basics and a couple of really nice decorations, with the understanding we’d add to our collection as the years went by. Thankfully the red and silver cheap basics have now gone, but the mismatch of colours and styles grows every year and I love it. We often try to buy the decoration(s) from somewhere we’ve been that year. I’ve got a Welsh dragon from Swansea, a wooden Christmas Tree from Paris, a silver Alamo from, well, the Alamo (San Antonio, TX) and a patriotic state of Texas wearing a Santa hat from Dallas!
These are Savage Family traditions pre-Oscar or BtB (Before the Boy), but the question is how will things change now we have him, particularly as he becomes old enough to understand what the hell is going on? I’m so excited to create new traditions with him and for him. So for example I plan to buy him a Christmas Tree decoration every year, so when he leaves home he has a box of decs ready and waiting. When he’s old enough we’ll let him choose it (however awful it may be – kids have weird taste!), it will go on the tree that year and then be added to his collection. But what else will we do? I’d love to do something that has a particular smell. Scent can evoke such a hugely powerful memory and I’d love him to be able to smell something as an adult and be reminded of awesome family Christmases with us.
Then I guess we have to address our Christmas Mythology? Will we call the big man, Santa or Father Christmas? Will we leave Sherry & Mince pies or Whiskey & Flapjack (the best way to my husbands heart by a mile!)? Will I tell my child that if he gets out of bed and sees Father Christmas that he will take all the presents away, like I was told, to keep me in my room? Do we tell him anything at all? I think Ben would be quite happy to debunk the myth fairly early on. But I want to create just a little magic in Oscar’s life while he still believes. My most precious Christmas memory from my childhood was standing at the top of the stairs aged 5, with my mum and my brother, while my dad went downstairs to “see if Father Christmas had been”. He pretended to have walked in on The Big FC and I heard them have a conversation. I was beside myself at the top of the stairs, partly because my dad was talking to Santa and partly because I was scared Santa would take the presents away, having been ‘seen’. It was pure magic.
So yeah, yeah I’m getting carried away and I’d love to be this perfect mummy who creates the most memorable Christmases ever. But chances are Oscar’ll have a blast whatever I do. What kid being given new stuff and sugar doesn’t? I’m definitely excited about “doing” Christmas with the boy though, teaching him the familiar and developing the new, as the years go by.
One day, I just hope he’ll turn to his other half and say “because we never had tinsel when I was growing up, that’s why!”