A very happy 2013 to everyone out there.
Like half the world, it seems, I’ve been indulging in a bit of cupboard cleaning to mark the start of the new year. A massive bag of books and two bin bags of clothes went down to the charity shop today. Together with my new smoothie maker, this has made me feel slightly cleansed after the materialism and overindulgence of the season.
Although I generally look forward to it, I have mixed feelings about Christmas (btw I mean no offence to anyone when I use the term “Christmas” – I am not religious and don’t mark the holiday by going to a church service but “Christmas” is what it’s called in my country; to use “Happy holidays” or “Happy [other appropriate religious/pagan festival”] would feel very artificial to me).
I think we all have that disappointing realisation around our teens that Christmas is not such a big deal after all – it’s for kids and somewhat of an anti-climax once you’ve outgrown the mega-excitement of Santa Claus (on which note, I think it’s high time we shook off the red shackles of Coca-Cola and reclaimed Father Christmas’s green robes, so much nicer). In your twenties or thirties, I guess, you make your own kids and see the season through their innocent eyes with a renewed sense of awe and excitement. When you’re childless, obviously, this isn’t the case, and watching nieces and nephews from the sidelines doesn’t quite cut it for me, though it does for some. Plus if you’re not married or partnered up, there’s the double whammy of not having someone special to share the season, exchange thoughtful gifts and walk down twinkly-lit streets with.
Also, this year, working for myself, I didn’t have that wonderful, wonderful end-of-year feeling of leaving reality behind temporarily that, for me, is always sparked by the moment you’ve tidied up your desk and any loose ends, put the out-of-office message on and escaped the office for a week or two during which you know you will be totally cocooned from the real world in a pyjama-wearing, card-playing, crap-TV-watching bubble. Though one positive this year was that I missed the ritual of enforced jollity with workmates who normally wouldn’t go within 400 yards of each other in a social situation, and the horrendous feeling of “What did I say? How embarrassingly was I dancing?!” the next day.
I spent pretty much all of the day of the 24th cooking with my mother, who was preparing dinner on the 25th for 12 people. In the night, when the others had gone to a carol service, with Martini in hand I emailed friends spread across the world. I stopped sending cards about five years ago and it’s become a ritual for me to use the time when the house is quiet on Christmas Eve to say hello to those I haven’t seen for a while and fill them in on what’s going on. More satisfying than cards, which for me had become a bit meaningless. And particularly nice when a return email arrives and you find out how things are with them and contact is re-ignited.
By the time the turkey was heading into the oven at 11 on Christmas morning, my mother and I were pretty damn frazzled. And I will admit that I was fighting down highly un-Christian thoughts of “why is my mother still making Christmas dinner for these people, when she is nearly 70 and they have their own kids/homes?”) and, I’m not proud of this, frankly feeling a bit Cinderella-esque at putting all this effort in for other people’s partners and kids. Bitter, moi??
Then, as we relaxed after dinner and everyone was chilling out together, I remembered that this was my family and that I am really, really lucky to have them to spend Christmas with. This time of the year is so hard for people who don’t have familiar faces around them or safe and secure homes. So, I got over my internal hissy fit.
And whereas last Christmas I was wading through the emotional aftermath of having to say goodbye to the perfect guy who was either emotionally unavailable or plain “just not that into me” à la Sex and the City – I still don’t know which – this year my baby plan was in train and I dared to hope that maybe next December there could even be a baby there.
Or at least a bump.