Today, after being away for three weekends in a row, I was finally at home and taking it easy. I got up late (decadently so, in fact), had a great espresso (from Colombian beans and I really think that the Colombians are great at growing and processing coffee), attempted some gardening (and blocked the machine) and had a great cooking day. But the reason I am telling you about my day of leisure and contentment is because it allowed me finally to turn my attention to Christmas.
Christmas! I could avoid thinking about it till now only because of my ability to block things out; otherwise it has been with us since late August no less. Have you noticed how with the increased commercialisation of traditional holidays they seamlessly merge into each other? New Year’s day brings us Valentine’s cards, on the 15 of February we can buy Easter eggs and immediately after that…it is Christmas again, isn’t it! Every time this happens I really wish to be the Mistress Supreme of the Universe so I could cancel all holidays; I particularly wish to call Christmas off.
No, I am not a spoil sport. But I believe that the Eastern Orthodox Christianity has got this one right: Easter is so much more important as a religious holiday than Christmas. Christ has to be born to be able to do anything else, true; but as symbolism his crucifixion and raising from the dead are so much more significant. Apart from Christmas not being his real birthday to begin with! Celebration aside (I will never object to a good party, really) what is particularly annoying is what goes with Christmas – the presents, the pressure, the turkey than most people don’t like, the indigestible Christmas cake and the horrid songs we hear again and again. Do you know that the other day I casually mentioned to a friend that I have done no Christmas shopping yet and this almost induced a panic attack in her? Of course I would like to ban Christmas and the foolishness that affects even the smartest amongst us around this time of the year.
This is how I feel when annoyed by advertising and tired. Today, having had time to relax, I decided to examine carefully what I like and what I dislike about Christmas. I reckon this is my only chance to survive it – by looking forward to the things I like and trying to avoid the things I don’t.
Love: the Christmas tree
I love the Christmas tree and the picture above is of ours. Yesterday John and our youngest son bought this seven foot high, completely natural tree and in the evening we had great time decorating it. This is one of my indulgencies – I do feel slightly guilty because it is probably ecologically more sound to have an artificial tree (although the natural trees are recycled at both ends) but I will miss terribly the fresh smell and the natural ones.
I love sitting on the settee, looking at the tree and meditating on the glittering little lights. Weird, I know, but brings me so much calmness and cheer!
Love: sharing good wine and food
Please note that I said ‘good wine’ not ‘exceptional wine’. So the wine in the picture, the bottle that I bought at the Santa Rita winery in Chile, is staying put. There are other great bottles of wine to be had.
This year we also have the chocolates on the picture: Pierre Marcolini chocolate is not simply chocolate. You are looking at the picture of a box of sixteen pieces of exquisite taste and texture; so exquisite that eating each of them is equal measure pleasure and regret. Pleasure at the taste and regret that you can’t keep it forever!
And forget about Christmas pudding; this year I am going all Oriental and making a tray of syrup dripping baklava. Try it – it is not hard at all if you could buy high quality filo pastry.
Love: the rest and old movies on TV
Since John is probably going to read this, there is no point messing about: sometimes I do work during the Christmas break. But it is not long and I usually manage to get out of the way what I had set out to do for the day before everybody else is up. Even if I have to work a bit, the rest is very much welcome – I love going out and playing with our son, playing board games with the rest of the family, or simply snuggling into an armchair with a good book. If it is not too icy, it is a good time to run as well – even only being out in the day light wards off the winter blues.
Another thing I love about Christmas is the old movies on TV – some of them I have seen many times but they are classic.
Love: seeing family and friends
This is one of the best things about Christmas – families getting together and friends visiting from afar. Before they passed away my parents used to come and visit for Christmas; well, it was more like come a spend most of the winter with us really. Friends used to joke that I live life like in a Jane Austin novel: people come and stay for months. It was great.
This year, my sister will be visiting and we can’t wait to see her. And naturally, grown up sons will be here on Christmas day; this is when I look around the table and a deep sense of contentment spreads through me.
Yes, you heard me right: I hate buying presents for Christmas and I dislike getting Christmas presents. It is not for lack of generosity – under normal circumstances I am a very generous person. Christmas, however, is not ‘normal’ – there is the compulsion to buy, and so much rubbish is being sold and bought.
If you have been given for Christmas stuff that you don’t like and don’t need, please stand up!
Ha! I thought so! I can see most of you standing up (or thinking that you should be standing up). Count me in; during my time I have been given many things I don’t like and I don’t need.
I suspect that there was time in the past when getting people small gift made sense: most people had very little. My father used to tell me that when he was a boy they used to get oranges and other exotic fruit (understand not local). Forty years ago it probably made sense to buy someone a jumper. Today, it doesn’t make sense any longer.
How am I going to get out of this one?
Hate is probably a strong word for this but I really don’t like turkey. The same goes for the other members of our family. However, this is much more easy to deal with than presents: we just never have it. After a disaster year when we experimented with duck and ended up having cheese sandwiches we firmly stick with chicken: we all like it and John’s roast with potatoes is a legend.
And while I am at it, we don’t like sprouts either; the way around this came from Runners World: a recipe that makes them edible.
This makes me feel so much better about the whole Christmas thing. It turns out that I like more things about it than I dislike but one of my dislikes is a really big, hairy one.
I shouldn’t cancel Christmas after all but see how can I get out of buying and getting presents!
How do you feel about Christmas?