I listened to a radio call-in the other day; a lady, her husband and their two children. She was worried about spoiling her children and losing the true meaning of Christmas so she had invited 8 lonely people to Christmas dinner at their house. “How amazing!” I thought. “What an incredible experience for your children” I thought. Then, “how big is your kitchen table?! And what if one of them is an axe murderer?!”….
I, like many mums I’m sure, worry about how to make Christmas all about what it should be, not just presents and over-indulgence. I bumped into a friend the other day who said they weren’t buying their son anything for Christmas because everyone else would. My inner 5-year-old staggered backwards in horror. “Nothing?!” I exclaimed in as low-pitched-voice as I could summon. Even though mine have all of the things, I couldn’t contemplate buying them nothing. That feeling of walking into a room of brightly coloured presents around the tree still makes my tummy bubble with excitement. Wriggling your toes and finding a full stocking is something I still do now at 35! I make Husband put my stocking on the bed especially so that I can! In fairness to Girly no1, all she wanted was a Frosty Girl. Don’t know what that is? Me neither. I watched 25 adverts on Nick Jr, still no idea. Luckily, a week or so after she asked I heard her singing along to an advert…for Flipzee dolls. Conundrum solved! No2, has obviously asked for nothing, unless “Burrr” or “Marrr” actually mean diamonds and pearls in which case that girls’ taste is as rich as her Mummy’s! With her, we’re upgrading. Like when your kitchen pans change from IKEA to Le Crueset. Her main gift this year is a little wooden trolley from the GLTC as a replacement for the £5 (inc. postage) one Auntie bought on eBay from China 3 years ago. The price and shipping destination are not my issue. It’s that the paint comes off every time it gets wet (by which I mean licked) and it collapses each time someone (namely the learning-to-walk-one-year-old) leans on it. So I could have not bought them any presents but it’s not fair. That’s not true. no2 has no idea what’s going on. The truth is I can’t help myself because I love Christmas and Christmas presents! I look forward to one day drowning in a sea of Chinese plastic and Vietnamese fluff. What better way to go?!
We do need to teach them that it’s not all about presents though, I know that. Last year Girly no1 wouldn’t go near the chimney for 3 weeks before Christmas Eve for fear that a big fat bearded man might drop down the chimney and try and kiss her. She was so scared that we had to leave her stocking outside her bedroom door so he didn’t come in. This year she knows a bit more. When she came home singing about Baby Jesus, I asked her if she knew who he was. She looked at me blankly and then launched into an explanation about how the animals eat hay from the baby bed. “Not bad!” I thought, “but not great” scrambling through the bookcase looking for the Nativity book someone gave us a few years back. At the time of receiving it, Husband had scoffed something about religion being forced on us until I reminded him why we have Christmas. “Ok, as long as we teach her about other religious celebrations too” he had said. Yep – fine. You can be in charge of Non-Christian Events in our household because I don’t know how to celebrate Diwali or Hanukah and I really don’t see where the fun is in Ramadan. Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and our September to November birthday gauntlet is enough. After reading the Nativity book 25 times she got it. Hopefully her cutest-thing-in-the-world concert made a little more sense.
We’ve tried to compensate for the lavish decorations, excessive food and drink and mountains of beautifully wrapped presents (yep, well done me) with a few different activities. We did the shoeboxes which I talked about in a previous post – cue videos of poor and half-dressed children living in shacks being shown to a trembly-lipped 3-year-old. This helped teach empathy and doubled up as a great threat for when no1 just wants to sit and watch TV – “right well I’ll just send all these toys to the Shoebox Kids” (not an entirely appropriate naming convention I know). I’m sure you’re not meant to benefit from charitable acts but I can’t help it, it’s the modern day equivalent of (but slightly more relevant) “think of the children in Ethiopia…” that was thrown at me when I wouldn’t eat all my dinner. We have made lots of things and spent less time on Amazon (me) and Twitter (Husband). I have watched all of Kirsty Allsopp’s Handmade Christmas episodes, marvelled over others’ talents and then picked the three easiest activities to attempt. Obviously reminding myself that it took me three months to make a cushion for my Textiles Technology GCSE and my Mum still had to step in and make it for me at midnight the night before it was due in (please don’t take my Textiles Technology GCSE away from me! Said no one ever). We made our own Christmas cards complete with cotton wool ball snowmen; potato print wrapping paper (no1 was bored after about 7 prints so that was mostly me); some crackers in bright pink and purple because they’re no1’s favourite colours; paper chains – technically they’re still in the packet; and then Husband attempted snow globes – we ended up with Tim Burton’s fog globes. Whilst the effort of doing these things was gratifying and no1 and I had some lovely quality time making them, I feel no less commercial. I spent £100 in Hobbycraft on all the materials and my Dad asked me the other day if I had swallowed a craft book as he laughed at our handmade cards.
We could of course have gone without all of these things. Perhaps a better lesson. The thing is I’m not entirely sure that depriving my family of crackers and M&S gift wrap would really help, especially when they know no different. I think the lady on the radio is right, it is seeing things first hand that leave an impression. Inviting lonely strangers might be the only way to really deliver a message on what Christmas is about. You just have to check their pockets for axes on the way in. It’s not for us this year though. We’re already feeding 8 adults and 2 children and, practically, I have no extra space. My over-sized Dad will already be (actually) treading on toes and blocking the oven. When my Girlies are of the age that they’re writing Christmas lists as long as their arms and tearing at wrapping paper like there is a dying puppy inside, we’ll do more. For now we will talk lots about what Christmas means, who Jesus is, and why Sheppers have to wash foxes at nighttime (No1’s interpretation of the whole affair).
Thank you to each and every one of you who has read any or all of the crap I have written this year. The fact that anyone takes time out of their day to read what I write baffles me, and anyone that has mentioned it to me in person, that awkward shuffle and look at the floor I did was me being deeply grateful. This will be my last post of 2017 so that just leaves me to wish you the happiest Christmas. Enjoy the time with your families and please do share with me how you keep it real in your home. And as your Christmas gift to me, please like and share this post! See you next year! xx
Girly no1, throw your hands up and shout happy Christmas…..