I was reading somewhere about how your family traditions anchor you in your society and culture. What traditions do you have at Christmas?
We put up our trees early in December and every bauble has a story or a memory associated with it. For example, the five glass icicles that my grandfather bought back from somewhere during the Second World War. There are more, my sister has some too. The Santa koala on a surf board that my mother bought back from Australia. The silver foil bells my eldest (now 26) made at nursery school. The glass candy cane my nan gave to me. The gorgeous baubles and wire hearts that belonged to my husband’s late first wife – I think of her a lot when I’m decorating the trees, even though I never met her (she died aged 38). Numerous decorations made on creative evenings with my sons and friends. The glass balls that once graced the Christmas trees of my childhood.
As I decorate the trees, I have happy memories and tears. I remember the year our family Christmas tree was much too tall and my dad had to cut the top off to make it fit. The year the turkey my father was given was so big it sat on the fridge shelf and no one wanted to eat it. The little glitter house with Santa on the roof, which was always at the bottom of childhood trees – it had been my mother’s when she was a child. My childhood concerns that because we hadn’t got a chimney Santa wouldn’t visit – explained away by a book my mother found where Santa arrives in a helicopter and comes to the front door.
Childhood sacks were always put at the bottom of our beds. If we were lucky we’d wake to fantastical ice patterns on the bedroom window (no central heating of course) and pillowcases full at the bottom of the bed. We’d take them next door to my parents room to open. There was the one year my sister saw what she swore was a naked Santa – dad must have dashed in to leave our gifts! Another year, Santa was disorganised and our presents weren’t at the bottom of our beds, but scattered all over my parents room and we had to guess which gifts were for me and which for my sister seven years younger – my parents must have overslept.
My eldest son has now left home, but my little one, eleven and still, as far as we are aware, believing in the magic, will put his sack underneath the Christmas tree tonight with excitement. We always put out an alcoholic drink and a mince pie for Santa and carrots and water for the reindeer.
Merry Christmas to you all. I hope Santa brings you what you desire for Christmas. I’ll settle for a peaceful family time. What would you like?