I was listening to something on the radio today about Christmas Day. The way that it often falls to the mother in the family to get things going – the planning ,the present buying, the food shopping, the cooking. It is a great deal of organization and planning and sometimes we set ourselves ridiculously high standards and the stress levels mount and to be honest, we enjoy very little of the whole event.
There were a couple of points that really struck me – that everyones’ attitudes add to the ambience of the day. You get one sulking and it can cause havoc to the mood. Someone mentioned that their mother would feign sickness when she did not feel appreciated enough….bringing guilt and a downer to the whole event.
Another mentioned the times the food had gone wrong and especially with guests visiting, this causing shame and embarrassment but was the time that has stuck out in everyones’ memories since. The implication that the times it DOES go right – when everything goes well, those are the years which you forget down the line and don’t stay with you.
I don’t have specific memories of Christmas as a child. Having a birthday near Christmas I was often given ‘one present for birthday and Christmas.’ I remember a few presents from family friends and that this seemed over generous as presents didn’t come my way often.
I do remember a time that a school friend – new to the area, popped in with her parents before Christmas and GAVE ME A PRESENT. This was not the norm – a friend giving a gift…. and no doubt expecting one in return. I can’t remember what was given to her a few days later – it would have been quite a chore I think – my gran having to buy something specific. I DO remember that a family member came over and STOLE MY WRAPPED PRESENT that the friend had just given me – from under the tree. This led to a lot of anguish. First there was the disbelief that my ‘cousin’ had actually stolen it. Then there was the whole ‘how do you thank someone for a present when you have no idea what it was?’ And then there was the huge accusation where the theft was acknowledged but played down. Jerem.y Ky.le has nothing on my family then.
A few years later I recall my gran getting in a huge strop on Christmas Day. I am not sure we even had a tree up that year. We had a hand me down plastic tree from a friend of a friend. But that year, my gran was in one of her ignoring me phases where she would literally not speak to me or cook or anything. I think I was maybe 12. She started decorating (as in step ladder and paint) the living room on Christmas Day. As you do. Protesting. There were many years where she had alienated all family and that must have been one of those times.
As soon as I got a job (aged 13) I worked on Christmas Day. Not only was it time and a half in wages but it was a far better atmosphere than anything I had going on at home.
Because Christmas was so awful growing up I try and make it a happy time with my lot now. I over indulge them in my Hubby’s eyes but I know compared to many families we really don’t. No gifts of TVs or phones. No big games consoles. No crazy expensive trainers. Hubby grew up in a happy family where gifts weren’t what it was all about. And I get that – but we differ somewhat. He is paranoid about us spoiling the kids where as I want them to have a good day. I know a shrink would have a field day with my ‘still making it up’ years later.
One of my most miserable married Christmases here was when pregnant with my last child… I was suffering and not sleeping and the in laws were over here staying. They did nothing to help so it was cooking for 7 people whilst 36 weeks pregnant and going to the ER on Christmas Day night as I knew things weren’t right. Perhaps it was my father in law’s Christmas spirit questioning the kids (they were then 7, 5 and 3) on what presents they had got that morning and when they couldn’t remember everything, declaring that he was right that they were spoilt rotten and didn’t deserve any of it.
This year I have not decorated the house apart from a small (18 inches) table top tree as we are going away. It looks sparse but it hasn’t changed any of the sentiment inside. We have very non-Christmas weather though – it should be winter here! People come out here to ski! It was high 60s and shorts and flip flop weather today!
It is how you feel on the inside that counts…. two weeks and it’ll all be over!