It’s that dark time of year again. The Cooks put up Christmas lights on the dining hall and it looks so pretty twinkling red and blue and green. I felt nostalgic for Christmas, but almost for the Christmas that is portrayed in books and films, that Christmas of snow and huge trees and long lost relatives and home comings and personal healings and one big happy family and everyone gets their wish fulfilled. You know, that one, the fairy tale one. Maybe the Christmas of my childhood, before I figured out Santa didn’t exist and there was a real magic about the day.
I went through a while of wanting to avoid Christmas and came through the other side, teenage angst probably. Now I love Christmas, and the Christmas’s in my house growing up were full of love and sharing and all of the above. I love the present buying and the rituals and the lights on the streets in dark Nov and Dec and then getting up on Christmas morning and making the croissants (from the tin, the ones you roll out) and getting Eoin/Daire/Grainne/me (pick whoever) out of the bed because we want to start opening the presents. And I love the day before Christmas eve in Dublin, wandering around meeting people in pubs for a drink before getting the seven o clock dart to bray to continue on the Porter House with friends from bray (hence the need to get people out of bed the next day!) and home by twelve and ham sandwiches. My mum still make us stockings and will make a stocking for any friends who happen to be visiting, but know she puts them on the end on the bed in the morning when she wakes up instead of waiting until we fall asleep; that became an impossible task many years ago.
The thing that has always struck me about Christmas though is the first Christmas I was nostalgic about, the one from the media, the perfect Christmas, is that is belongs in the same box as the perfect nuclear family, it doesn’t exist but it is the measure everyone uses to construct their own personal perfect Christmas. This of course is not a problem but where it falls short is when for some reason someone can’t have that perfect Christmas or doesn’t have the money to buy their children the perfect present and how we portray it as a shortcoming if it doesn’t happen, a failure, poor them, how sad, god love them, and then in the media someone comes to the rescue (Santa Claus or a rich relative) and fixes the problem.
It’s like we are trying to be perfect for one day, be perfect people, be a perfect family, be a perfect mother, father, child, a perfect society, peace and love for one whole day on earth. It is like we have taken this day and pinned all our hopes on it, make this day perfect and we will be ok.
I like the original reason for all the lights and trees better than the catholic one, seeing as Jesus was actually supposed to have been born sometime in late Feb early March. The pagan celebration was the death of the old sun and birth of the new sun, the darkest day of the year when the world started slowly turning its face towards the light again and the sun began to recover and get stronger and stronger. This makes more sense to me growing up in a country where there was barely 8 hours of daylight in the winter. Put light in the darkness, light up the streets and be happy, only in the dark winter do the fairy lights have the full impact.
My relationship with Christmas changed when I decided I liked it just for the excuse to have a party and celebrate life in the middle of death and put lights up in the darkness and think about the people I loved and what could I get them that they would really like for Christmas, depending on budget (and some years we had a family agreement that we couldn’t spend more than 5 euro on each other, which only made the present picking more inventive) and then it is just as much fun to see them open my present as it is to open theirs to me.
I am going to Montana this year to visit with Paul’s family. Paul’s relationship to Christmas is to give any children around everything they ever wanted o make up for the lack of his own happy Christmases. He admits this himself. He is already planning the shopping trips to the toy stores and I have overheard conversations with his daughter along the lines of We can get her (her being his granddaughter) this or this! And the reply Dad, she’s only three. He doesn’t care though; this is his particular perfect Christmas and the kids treat him like their own personal Santy Claus.
What do I want for Christmas? I want a down duvet, a big huge one, like a queen size or king size, one with really warm down fill. Can’t find them here in México and its COLD right now in these mountains.