Christmas is Past – thank goodness!

Christmas, the loveliest festival of the Christian year, is over again.  In January, as I write, the few decorations left hanging around are suddenly tawdry and windswept.  Ironically, this ‘time for families’ will have spawned more feuds and domestic crises than any other time of the year.

I have vivid memories of the Christmas when I learned the truth about Santa Claus, which was indeed the most memorable of my childhood.  For the only time in his life my father came home inebriated on Christmas Eve, having shared some whisky with his colleagues.  My mother had evidently been obliged to fill my Christmas stocking herself, and I was still awake when I heard rustling outside my bedroom door.

Creeping out when the coast was clear I saw the filled stocking outside – the twin of the empty one still hanging!  The following day my father was a pallid shape lying hung-over on the sofa, and I was the uncomprehending messenger as my parents were not on speaking terms!  I never told them that I knew the truth, in case the stockings stopped coming – and my father never ever repeated his crime – nor was allowed to forget it!

It seems to me that this encapsulates many of the myths and expectations we share: we share a fantasy we are unwilling to admit to, not only of course about Father Christmas but about the family – about how we are meant to be and how we relate to one another.

As one who spent 25 Christmases propagating the myth, and making Christmas for both parents and children, I feel something of an expert!  For me, nothing equals the rage engendered by my nearest and dearest – while allowing them to ‘help’ with the Christmas Tree, or the decorations, or the stockings or with cooking the sprouts an hour too early, so that they were grey and strangely bitter by the time they came to be eaten!

How I’ve longed to invite friends – though the one time I did caused my mother to take to her bed until they left! How I’ve longed to do things ‘my way’!  But I find in my life that I am always on a learning curve – that sooner or later I always experience the other side of the coin, and too late understand the other point of view.

Christmas now is quiet indeed, with no interference.  If we are lucky my husband and I get to talk to our families by phone or see the grandchildren by video link. The friends we might invite are away.  It scarcely seems worth putting up decorations.  We solemnly overeat, and perhaps finally now have chance to reflect on the ‘real ‘ meaning of the time – and of the family.

At the end of it all I think I understand a little more about myself, and the things I hold dear – the value of the people I love and who have loved me – however maddening – and the magical quality of the time itself, which can bring this home as well as the people, the chaos and the expense of it all!  Love is complicated.  No one can hurt or enrage us more than those who are closest.  No one can give us more joy.

Thank goodness.