Christmas is just around the corner and this time of year always makes me think of Christmas days when I was a kid. I don’t know exactly when I’d start to think about Christmas, but I’m pretty sure it was when my brother and I would get advent calendars. They would be made out of cardboard, there’d be a nativity scene on the front and 24 ‘doors’, each one hiding a chocolate. We’d get one each that we’d pin on the wall in our dining room and every morning from the 1st to the 24th of December we were allowed to open one of the doors and each the chocolate behind.
The next sign would be when my father would come back with a Christmas tree. This was always a big event and my brother and I would want to help in the decoration of said evergreen. Once that was done and the lights were on the tree became a play-thing for me. I’d spend hours every night with my Star Wars figures imagining space battles around the lights and the characters fighting to escape from the fearsome, evil, giant deadly tree! I can still think back and find myself totally engrossed in the warm glow of the tree in the corner of our dining room, sitting on the floor with the darkness of night outside and the white snow showing up the shape of the garden under a clear, moonlit sky. I’d be all warm and safe inside looking forward to Christmas eve.
From the tree going up to Christmas eve seemed to take an eternity. We’d hardly seem to make any progress through the advent calendar and the magic day would never get any closer. Presents would start to turn up in the mail posted from friends and relatives and we’d have a running competition about who had the most / largest / heaviest / softest presents and if we could guess what they were (we never got it right but years later my mother confessed that sometimes the curiosity would get the better of her and she’d open one or two and have a peek before carefully re-sealing them). Eventually we’d break up from school and the holidays would begin. And after a lifetime it would be Christmas eve.
We’d know Santa Claus would be coming and to say that we were all excited would be an understatement on the scale of saying “the universe – it’s a fair size isn’t it?”. We’d get some cookies and a drink (I don’t remember if it was tea, coffee or hot chocolate – probably the latter) and leave them out for Santa as he went on his way. We’d then hang up our stockings to be filled with presents. We’d be tucked up in bed watching the clock, wanting it to be morning and / or catch a glimpse of Santa. Of course we never would and we’d have the joy of waking up in the morning with stockings full of carefully wrapped presents, more presents on the floor at the bottom of our beds, and the hot beverage drunk and a bite taken out of the cookies.
Opening the presents would be like hungry Piranhas devouring a cow as we wanted to know what we’d got and start playing with whatever we had. Then we’d go downstairs to the tree and finally find out what all those presents that were sent to us actually were. The funny thing is that I can hardly remember any of the presents we got over all those years, but I can still remember the wonder and joy as if it were yesterday and I was 4’6″ again.
As I got older the presents would take on less significance, but it was a holiday and I’d get to spend it with my family. We’d watch a Bond film on TV while my mother would cook her speciality turkey and stuffing along with one of the soups we loved (I must get the recipes and post them). We’d probably have an argument or two and somebody (usually me) would end up “ruining Christmas” and stomping off upstairs. All would be forgiven later though, thankfully. When I left home it was a time when I’d come back and it would just be the four of us getting together. We’d talk about the years gone by and just be together.
Now, Christmas no longer holds so much meaning for me I’m afraid. To be honest it’s going to be damn hard for me as it’ll be my first Christmas without my mother. I don’t know how it’s going to be, but writing this and thinking about this time 20 years ago saddens me greatly. I just don’t know. I guess the next time Christmas will matter to me is when I have my own children. And in true John’s Adventures form I’m going to end on a positive note.
I can now see the whole affair from a parent’s point of view. My girlfriend’s nephew is 5 now and I’ll be spending a bit of time with him (not just him I might add – I’m only just learning the trade of “being good with kids”) over Christmas and can be a part of making it a special time with him. Just like my parents. Hey, Star Wars toys are back in vogue again and I know it’s the quantity, not necessarily the quality of presents that matter – it’s the fun of opening them and playing with them. So this year I’m going to make an effort and get him loads of cool things. Last year you couldn’t fit all his presents in one car and I thought it was ridiculous and that he was truly being spoilt. But now I understand. So this time he’s going to get even more.
If he wakes up on Christmas morning and feels half the excitement I did 23 years ago then I know for a fact that in 2025 he’ll smile when he thinks back and he too will be able to pass the magic of Christmas on to the next generation. And that makes me smile.