Oh I love writing our annual Christmas post, attempting to capture some of that festive fizz and excitement and squeeze it into a page. Yet it’s also an opportunity to reflect on those less fortunate and donate some love-led prayers and thoughtful actions their way.
Christmas for me as an adult is far more indulgent and materialistic than as a child. For starters, we Brits don’t tend to decorate our homes with as much fervor. Driving around on Christmas Eve, oohing and ahhing over Christmas lights, has become a family tradition with our kids. Yet growing up back home the only outside symbol of Christmas you’d likely see would be a wreath hung on the front door, usually sans lights.
Eric and I come from two different cultural backgrounds, which is particularly pronounced at Christmas. His mom was incredibly generous with gift buying. I couldn’t quite believe how much she bought me on our first Christmas together, back in 2006. She’d decorate her house in a way that my mum would refer to as ‘light pollution.’ Light pollution, my friends, is a very real thing in rural Dorset, England. We don’t have any street lamps on our road. Dad used to send his three girls up the pub with high visibility jackets and a flashlight.
The classic case in point moment came in 2006, when Eric and I looked at each other and realized just how culturally far apart our mums were from one another.
Driving around the teeny Dorset lanes, with visiting mom-in-law and Eric and I, mum spied a home with a single set of lights strung around the roof frame. “Gosh how ghastly!” she exclaims. From the back of the car where mom-in-law sat Dead. Silence. And much wincing. I’m sure M-I-L must have been mulling over how to respond to that one. She evidently plumped for honesty as she chuckled, “Well, you best not come to my house at Christmas!”
Eric and I have always been with one or other of our family’s these last ten Christmases. Christmas with my family is a homely, classic kind of affair, with carols piping in the background as we open small yet thoughtful gifts in a systematic way over champagne. The eldest sister present has the task of writing who bought who what, so we can write our thank you cards after.
We all dress in our Sunday Best and its an occasion which is dignified and orderly, always consisting of church, the Queen’s speech and a family post-lunch Christmas walk, in which we’d return from ruddy-cheeked and glowing, ready for a festive game of Scrabble or the like.
Eric’s mum loved Christmas. She’d save all she had to provide her kids with an abundance of wished-for gifts. Unlike ours, theirs was a more casual affair, PJ’s and comfortable clothes featuring highly. Seeing as she was such a hard-working mum, I’m sure she not only adored Christmas, but the opportunity to be at home with no expectations of how to dress or what to do. The food they all pitch in to make is rich and indulgent and tastes delicious (if a little naughty)! Sometimes they’d even go to the movie theater in the afternoon, which I found fascinating, seeing as cinemas are religiously closed back in Blighty on Christmas Day.
Our still- emerging Christmas traditions pluck our favorite parts from both our childhoods, with added us-isms.
We honor my family’s way by sticking to the same feast; turkey, roasties, sprouts and stuffing. We watch the Queen, play games and we also dress for best and go to church on Christmas Eve. We’re spiritual people, rather than religious, but we are nonetheless great champions of Jesus, and think of Christmas as a celebration of his birth. Plus it’s nostalgic.
From Eric’s family traditions we drive around on Christmas Eve admiring the lights and we allow the kids to open one gift before bed. I suppose Christmas follows more of my traditions but amped-up, American style. Sorry to say it, mum, but we do have a lit-up Minnie-Mouse on our porch (not to mention the angel, multiple reindeer, sleigh and lights wrapped all over the place!)
Oh Christmas. I woke up this morning thinking about how fortunate we are to have loved-ones and places to celebrate the season with family in America, England and Germany. We are so grateful.
I have, years ago, spent a lonely Christmas in a pub in England with a flatmate’s buddy who was borrowing our sofa, so I had a taster of how difficult Christmas can be without those you love. We had barely twenty pounds to spare between us but managed to club together enough to spend the day drowning our sorrows in an all-day pub. It was the appropriate culmination of a pretty pants year, in which I’d stumbled from one self-inflicted disaster to the next.
It can be a time to reflect and assess the year and that -from experience- can be a challenge to sit with.
Yet I know from my drunken sad-sack Christmas back in 2003 I decided that Christmas would be the motivation to make the next Christmas better. It was. I applied for a childhood dream job to be a Flight Attendant, got the position with a shiny new airline, and sat around the Christmas table in 2004 in mum and dad’s beautiful new-build home with my pilot boyfriend. From that year on, life has gotten better and better, proportionate to my growing self- nourishment, respect and interest in finding my own path to God and Life.
One desire fulfilled leads to unwrapping the next dream. Heavens, even one inspired action makes you available to doors being opened, opportunities ringing. So if you feel deflated and depressed this Christmas use that feeling as impetus to begin to muse on what small steps you can take to improve next year. And I know the perfect book to walk you through every inch of putting your ideals into action, Jump…And Your Life Will Appear: An Inch- by- Inch Guide to Making a Major Change by Nancy Levin
Whether sad or glad this Christmastime, I want to wish you a very special Christmas, full of all the things that bring you joy. I hope you emerge from the festivities eager to make 2017 your best year yet. Namaste, and thank you so very, very much for your readership, it means the world.