Warning: I am a big Christmas lover, and this is a blog about Christmas. If you are not so Christmas inclined, perhaps you might prefer to spend your time ranting about how Christmas decorations go up earlier every year. But as for me, deck my halls and fa-la-laa me up, baby.
I am a firm believer that kids are a must-have ingredient for a cracker of a Chrimbo. It doesn’t have to be your own children, any will do: friends, nephews, nieces, cousins, second cousins, God-children, neighbours, whatever. Just load ’em up and pile ‘em high. Without children, Christmas gets too organized, too predictable, too much about Christmas lists, too boozy and, frankly, a little dull. It doesn’t mean to, it just happens that way. Here’s how it breaks down, or at least how my own experiences of Christmas past fare:
|Tradition||Without kids||With (young) kids|
|Decorating the house||Picking a full-bodied yet elegant tree, carefully planning colour combinations, dispersing Christmas-scented candles around house and debating whether tinsel is back in style yet.
|Jamming the first tree you see in the car and then realizing that the top of the tree is wedged in the Maxi-Cosi with the baby in it. Diffusing arguments over who turns on the lights, sweeping up lethal smashed bauble shards and contemplating throwing everything away.
|Christmas shopping||Get the big items online, and then maybe find the right Thursday night to enjoy the High Street for the fun stuff. Maybe even try and coordinate it with some ice skating or at least a good dinner with friends.
|Have a lot of ideas but don’t get around to any of them. Do everything online at the last moment, realize you’ve missed the last delivery date and then print as many child photos out as possible to gift to everyone.
|Sending Christmas cards||Yes||No|
|Church on Christmas day||Probably miss because of lie-in.||Go to with intention of showing off kids, arrive late, sing one carol and then apologise to everyone in congregation as one child lies in the aisle screaming and another announces loudly that he is doing a poo.
|Christmas lunch||A three-hour food and wine binge, complete with crackers and Christmas pudding.
|A 3-hour event where other people eat and you carry wide-awake children around the house trying to execute an overly complicated and totally useless sleep plan.
|Present giving||Everyone sits around the room as the presents are given out. People whoop as they unwrap their gifts before looking earnestly at the giver with a look of “seriously, this is too much”. Lots of kissing.
|Starts well, but then emotions get out of hand. The two year old is more interested in a box, the elder kids try to jam wrapping paper in the fire and you realize you’re too tired to pull off your standard “oh, this is just what I wanted” face to your mother-in-law. You reach over to kiss someone in gratitude but trip over a baby who you didn’t see on the floor.
|Christmas evening||Back to the Future, The Great Escape or ET? Tough call. Maybe all three with a break for more cheese and wine.||The kids finally go down, you look at your spouse with a combination of joy and exhaustion, and then jointly lunge for the nearest bottle… a move you both massively regret when the baby wakes up at 3am.
OK, maybe I’m not selling Christmas with kids that well, but consider this: a few years ago my elder brother and his wife rocked up with their brand new baby boy, the first child in our family for a new generation, and it was like someone had hit ctrl+alt+delete on Christmas. We were shaken out of our Christmas rituals that had grown slightly flat over the years of doing the same thing with the same people (although it was still my favourite day).
Skip forward to 2015 and there are scheduled to be five grand-kids running around my parents’ house wanting to sing carols, check the tree for presents and eat chocolate. They believe in it all, and that renews my belief in it all, too. Their grandparents seem to be the most excited, despite the insane work load it will no doubt bring to their house. It makes no sense whatsoever but it’s fantastic
So I get that Christmas with kids means a lot of chores. I get it means stretching the bank and I get that it means sitting in traffic with crying children testing your stress limits (trust me, I get this: we have a 13-hour trip home for Christmas this year including an overnight crossing of the North Sea with three kids under five years old). I get all that.
But above all, I also get that the more ordered, predictable and less magical years loom ahead in the not too distant future, and that makes me feel a little sad. So I intend to get entirely stuck in and make mince pies whilst the snow falls, so to speak.
SO COME ON! ALL TOGETHER NOW! “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…”
Merry Christmas one and all.