Christmas

This week’s Remember the Time Blog Hop has the theme: Merry Christmas!

Well, what else could have been chosen for this week?

Remember the Time Blog Hop

 

Christmas Eve. My sister and I would be put to bed, but we couldn’t get to sleep. Her bed was by the window and she would pull back the curtains, just a little, and peer out into the dark night sky. Somewhere up there a man dressed in red was flying from house to house delivering presents down chimneys. She hoped beyond hope for a glimpse, especially of the reindeer.

Outside our bedroom door we could hear our parents moving softly around the house, up and down the stairs. This was most unusual. Occasionally there would be a faint rustle of paper, but if we suspected what was going on we never voiced our thoughts. We wanted to believe in the magic.

We thought that we would stay awake all night but somehow, at some point, fell asleep. Waking in the morning to a quiet house we would wait, as instructed, until 7am. It was so hard to remain quiet as we whispered and wondered and checked the clock yet again.

Eventually, at the appointed hour, we could wake our parents. But our teenage brother always wanted to sleep! How could he on Christmas morning…

And so we would enter the lounge and stare in awe at the piles of colourfully wrapped parcels. The paper was always the same: slightly crumpled, with a few tears and the remains of previous year’s sticky tape. My mother required that we open each present carefully to preserve the wrapping paper, which she would smooth out and fold before placing it in a storage box. Somehow this ritual did nothing to spoil our belief in Santa Claus.

The new toys were treasured, the books set aside for later, the clothes from ancient relatives (probably in their thirties at the time) discarded. And then there were the selection boxes. Chocolate bars, bags of candy and toffees would be consumed for breakfast as we struggled to remove the packaging from the toys we had longed for, and many that we had not realised we had wanted but now adored.

Eventually we would have to dress and get into the car to go fetch Grandma. This was not a chore as the unfailingly generous soul always gave us a major new toy. Throughout the journey we would try to guess what it might be, what from the list that we had sent to Santa had we not yet received?

When all presents had been opened and Grandma had been safely brought back to our house my mother would serve dinner. I was a hungry child and loved this day, when I could eat my fill without fear of comments about my girth. Replete we would settle down in front of the television to watch the Christmas film, hugging a favourite toy from the day’s haul.

My Grandma never wished to stay for long after the meal and my father would be required to drive her home. My sister and I would return to snacking on our confectionery and investigating toys that had not yet warranted much attention. Having produced all the food, my mother would be left to clear up the debris from dinner.

By the evening we would be tired from the excitement and activity; we would go to our beds hugging a new, soft friend.

I have only happy memories of the Christmases of my childhood. It was a magical time, as rose tinted as they come.

I feel blessed to have had parents who made it so.

Christmas presents

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Santa Claus

Spoiler Alert! If you are expecting your Christmas presents to be delivered down your chimney on Christmas Eve by a big, bearded, soot sprinkled, magical elf dressed in red with white fur trim then please do not read this post.

I hope that was warning enough. I do not wish to spoil anyone’s Christmas.

That was my problem when I first had kids. It was very important to me that my children should trust me; I did not wish to lie to them about anything.

Sometimes this aspiration got me into trouble, such as when I gave birth to my third child at home and my eldest burst into the room before we were ready. I explained to her carefully, in what I thought was age appropriate language, how her little brother had emerged from mummy’s tummy. She then wanted to know how he had got in, which I also tried to explain as honestly as I could. The next week she was passing on this important information at playgroup. At no point were any birds, bees or storks involved; just a mummy, a daddy and a special hug; followed nine months later by something like a big poo.

So, what to do about the existence of Santa Claus in the Christmas story? At first I simply ignored him. I explained to my children that Christmas was a birthday celebration for Jesus. When a child has a birthday, family and friends give the child gifts and a party is held. Because Jesus is so very special we all get given gifts on his birthday and everybody celebrates with a party. I reckoned that I could cover other religions when my children got a bit older.

Except me not mentioning Santa Claus didn’t stop every other adult that my children came into contact with just expecting them to be in on this tale. Without a word from me they came to believe in the flying reindeer, presents coming down a chimney and a funny little old man all dressed in red who granted every material wish.

At no point did I ever say that this was how it was. I didn’t have to. However, whilst I may not have lied explicitly, I did implicitly as I went along with the established orthodoxies. The night before Christmas, when my kids asked to put out cookies and milk for Santa along with a carrot for the reindeer, I obliged. I ensured that they were tucked up in their beds before sneaking the presents down the stairs on Christmas Eve. When they were old enough to write a letter requesting particular gifts, I helped address the envelope to the North Pole and walked them to the village postbox to send the carefully crafted missives on their way. I made no mention of the wonderful service that the Post Office provides when, a few weeks later, each child received a reply from the man himself.

What else could I do? Had I told them the truth then that important information would have been shared at playgroup or school too. I was not willing to take responsibility for removing the magic from all those children’s lives. Perhaps more to the point, I was not willing to face the potential wrath of their parents.

When my elder son eventually asked outright if Santa existed I told him the truth and, as I had feared, he rightly accused me of lying to him. I felt dreadful. It is not the only time that I have fallen short of his good opinion, but I do not recall any other deliberate untruth that I have perpetuated.

On Day 4 of my countdown to Christmas then, I am feeling glad that I can now celebrate Christmas with my family without a pretence that I never felt comfortable with. I may be the only one in my family who still looks on this event as a birthday party for the son of God, but we exchange presents with each other out of love, not because a mythical stranger invades our home in the dead of night.

My daughter still remembers her little brother’s birth, probably her first real memory. I do wonder if witnessing the aftermath of that momentous but very real event has scarred her for life.

1914 Santa Claus in japan