Monday, 3 December 2007

Ghosts of Christmases past

A switch finally went on in my brain today that it was nearly Christmas time, probably from reading Jen's gorgeous tree-buying post, and I am feeling that old happiness that comes from planning some delicious meal for my family, and buying lots of fun presents.
Our Christmas has changed somewhat over the years, being a very extended family and now with grandkids into the bargain, we have got a lot less formal.
When we were kids, my sister and I were like any other kids and equated Santa's arrival with the Second Coming, if we had been religious. We fought over the advent calendar, decorated the tree with popcorn strands (and ate it slowly over the weeks, even when it was the texture of polystyrene balls) worked out what Every Single Present under the tree was before the big day, even the ones that weren't for us, and I learnt to play Christmas Carols on the piano, so we could all stand around and sing them. We actually did that one Christmas, how chocolate-boxey is that? Kinda cute though.
One memorable Christmas Day when I was about 5 and Megan 7, we somehow woke up at about 4am, and went downstairs. The tree was a snowdrift of presents, and we briskly set about opening them all. You see, we were of the age that still believed in Santa, and we were dying to see what he left us. Turned out a Swingball set was under there, and I remember barrelling upstairs after a while screaming "MUM! DAD! Santa brought us SWINGBALL!" Our parents were thrilled, and every Christmas after that, our presents were hidden under lock and key and guard dog, until we had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. They would block our doors so we couldn't get out. I kid you not.
Our parents were great sleeper-inners, and forbade us to go downstairs before 7:30. One Christmas Day, we had the great idea of timetabling our morning ablutions to begin at 7:00, meaning that the last half hour would be nicely spaced out so we didn't have to wait. The timetable looked something like this:
  • 7:00 am Wake up.
  • 7:02 am Get out of bed
  • 7:04 am Go to bathroom etc.

Of course we got through brushing our teeth and hair and putting our fancy smocked dresses on by 7:05, and spent 25 fidgety minutes on the bed before getting the okay and burning down the stairs for our Stockings.

After stockings the parents would drag themselves up, and we'd have croissants and OJ on the deck, then it would be the good stuff. My sister and I got so many presents it's almost embarrassing, and we would lie them out in the order we were going to open them. I remember some opening marathons that lasted about 3 days, but maybe I am exaggerating. Dad would always fall asleep on the couch, and I would have finished my box of Roses chocolates and be complaining of tummy ache.

Phone calls would then be made and dutiful thankyous said to the grandparents, then it was PLAYTIME while Mum got the pork roast on and the table set. We had all the trimmings and the flash set of china out, and we'd even be allowed a little bit of champagne. Afterwards Dad would fall asleep again and we'd play more, then be hungry again by 6.

I remember these days as some of the happiest in my childhood, which is probably why I still love to really make an effort at Christmas. This year we are having it at my step-sisters, because her house is the only one big enough to hold us all, and we're going to have a couple of boned legs of lamb on the BBQ and lots of crayfish and champagne. I won't be getting a stocking in the morning and I'll be doing most of the cooking myself, but the family love and laughter will be there and I Can't Wait.