It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Wow! I can’t believe that Christmas is nearly here already!
As I write this, we have sent out all of our Christmas orders and the deadline for final posting has now passed, although we will still do e-vouchers right up until the end of Christmas Eve.
As with every event that we’ve had this year, I suspect that for many of us Christmas is going to be far from “normal”. I don’t know about you, but in my family we have all sorts of fun (or probably “funny”, to an onlooker) Christmas traditions.
Looking back to my childhood I have so many happy memories of Christmas with my family, and when Gareth and I first got together he was welcomed into the fold as well. I will never forget his face that first year he spent Christmas with my family. You never realise just how odd your own Christmas traditions are until you see them through the eyes of an onlooker.
On Christmas Eve we usually go to the pub down the road from my parents’ house for a beer or two with my brother, our friend Pete, and my Dad. When we get back we have gammon and chips for dinner, after which we usually crack open more beers which are needed to lubricate our throats for the Christmas-carol marathon.
We all gather round the keyboard (which I play ever-increasingly enthusiastically and badly as we drink more beer). Pete usually does the left hand and I do the right, and we work through a huge keyboard Christmas carols book.
If it’s a carol we particularly enjoy, we sing all the verses, otherwise we just do the first and last verses.
I bark instructions at everyone as we go, and we all find it very entertaining.
Now, Gareth doesn’t sing. He enjoys the drinking beer part, but he absolutely point-blank refuses to join in with the carols!
Things only get weirder from there. It’s usually getting on for midnight by the time we all go to bed, but before we go we have to leave out a mince pie and whiskey for Santa. And of course we need to leave him a note!
Then we all bring down our presents for each other and put them out ready for opening the next morning.
One year we decided to do stockings for my parents as a surprise (as they always do them for us), but, of course, in order to make it a surprise we had to wait until they were in bed, so at nearly 3am we were sneaking down the corridor to put stockings on their door!
In the morning, I like to wake up early (normally I enjoy a lie-in, but I’m always too excited for that on Christmas morning), so once I have shaken Gareth awake; “helped” him to open his stocking, (unwrapping presents for him and showing him what he has while he tries to ignore me and go back to sleep), I then pick up my recorder, burst into my brother’s room and start playing Jingle Bells.
He hates the recorder, so I never miss this out of my Christmas morning routine!
I catch him asleep and therefore too vulnerable to do anything apart from hide under the covers.
After that, I treat my parents to a similar rendition (they don’t mind the recorder, so it’s not torturous to them), and we watch them open their stockings.
Even though I am now 36 I still usually get into bed with them for the opening of their stockings!
Once all the stockings are open, we then have to wait at the top of the stairs for my dad to go and check if Santa has been.
Once he gives the OK we are all allowed down, and not a moment before!
Then we are allowed to open our presents, but this has to be done in an orderly fashion – my mum makes a note of our gifts so we can thank people, which means we have to open one present at a time. Then I do the same for my parents.
The problem for my mum and I is that we are impatient. We rip open the wrapping paper, look at the present, exclaim delightedly over it, and then we are ready for the next one.
The men all seem to take a very different approach. They open things slowly and carefully, then they have to look at everything in great detail. If it’s something to be made, they’ll start trying to make it. Meanwhile, my mum and I are saying “hurry up, we want to open the next present, come on boys”.
In the meantime we have mince pies for breakfast, then we all get ready for Christmas lunch – everyone has to dress up nicely, and it’s usually 2pm before we’re eating turkey.
The whole day is filled with laughter and enjoyment, and I look forward to Christmas Day every year.
I think a lot of the “traditions” will have to be given a miss this year.
There won’t be any pub-visits on Christmas Eve. I certainly won’t be climbing into bed with my parents to watch them open their stockings and, of course, we might not even be able to be all together. So we may yet end up doing this over a video call.
It would be very easy to sit and mourn everything that we can’t do this Christmas, to be sad at not attending the Christmas parties, not seeing friends, not visiting the pub, and not walking behind my town’s charity Santa float.
But what I do know is that however different this Christmas ends up being, my family and I will make the most of everything that we CAN do.
If we are able to be together then we will take great joy out of that and, if we’re not, then Zoom will be our lifeline so we can still be together, albeit virtually.
It may be different, but we’ll still make it fun.
Christmas, to me, is all about spending time with friends and family and appreciating the wonderful people that I am lucky enough to have in my life, and I will still get to do that.
We are very fortunate to live in the digital age and to be able to do endless video calls with our friends and family, and next year we’ll just have to make up for it.
I wonder if I can get another Christmas carol book for next year’s keyboard playing, or perhaps learn a new tune on the recorder for my brother.



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