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Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the Christmas period. I love the point when I can sit back and think everything is finally ready. I just hope that this moment come's on the 24th and not some point halfway through Christmas Day itself!
I have a few Christmas Eve traditions but they don't involve putting up the tree. They have been in place since early December. I have worked on previous Christmas Eves and coming home to a nicely decorated house always lifted my spirits when I was tired from the daily commute. I must confess to squeezing in more than one tree and that's not including the little one upstairs. So it takes me a while to decorate them and I like to spend most of the day doing that - with regular mince pie breaks of course. I don't get sick of the sight of decorations by Christmas Eve because other bits only get put up nearer the time, such as the wreath which I made last week end so it still looks fresh just after Christmas too.
I don't leave out anything for Father Christmas as we don't have any children. It wasn't a tradition for me when I was small because I was a very early unbeliever. I am sure my parents would have liked the idea of getting us children to bed before midnight on the threat Santa wouldn't come otherwise but at least they didn't have to creep around on our noisy floorboards to put up stockings. Instead, last thing at night, my dad had to read us children Clement Moore's Twas the Night before Christmas poem. It still makes me feel festive whenever I hear a bit of it.
Our other family tradition is to go for a walk once all the shops are closed, to look at the town Christmas tree and lights. It is usually very quiet then so it s lovey to take in the peaceful atmosphere after the madness of the Christmas shopping crowds. Then it is home to hot chocolate, mince pies and shortbread. We don't get carol singers in our area and in an act of kindness to my neighbours I won't be going to sing outside their doors. I wouldn't want anyone to think a cat was in distress! We will listen to some Christmas music though - I always manage to get good old Andy Williams Christmas album on sometime. There I have confessed it - but no one wears a Christmas jumper like Mr Williams!
The last task will be to help mum with her wrapping - mine is now completed except for replaced those gift tags which always go astray. My role usually means finding the end of the Sellotape. My mother is a firm believer in securely wrapping presents which means she uses ribbon, string and Sellotape by the metre - usually all three. This year I am worried that she has been seen with glue dots as well. Unwrapping frequently involves a group effort, knives and scissors. Last year even secateurs were called for. Let's hope we all emerge with fingers and thumbs attached!
This year I am going to prepare some of the Christmas dinner in advance so we will have less to do on Christmas day. As I'm not working I will have time to bake extra shortbread as well because you can never have too much of that. After that there is no time to worry about anything else - Christmas is coming and we will be as ready as we will ever be. That's why I love Christmas Eve - everything is still ahead and the preparations are over. Whatever you do on the day, have a great one - even if you are working or especially if you are.
Like Santa's little helpers in this seasonal tale, words aren't always the obedient servants we would wish them to be. Sometimes, they take on a will of their own and gallop away in their own chosen direction like rebellious reindeer. When this happens, especially in verse, one really has no choice but to leave one's own opinions behind and follow where they lead, as I did in this case.
'Twas the night before Christmas, and what have we here?
Not a creature was stirring, no, not the reindeer,
And therefore not me, who you know of as Santa
(I'll have heard it before, so just spare me the banter).
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave a perfect excuse for the team not to go
Out delivering in such 'unacceptable' weather:
"One slip and we'll all come a cropper together."
"Just think what might happen if our harness froze,"
Said the ring-leader (politics red as his nose),
But the rest were all nodding - he'd got them onside -
And I knew, once committed, they wouldn't backslide.
And the packers and loaders had all gone on strike
Before risking their elf and their safety alike;
I reckon the blighters were having a laugh,
They'd be ready to work given time-and-a-half.
But I'd had enough, and I told 'em to shove it,
(The look on their faces, you'd just gotta love it)
"Sod this for a game of military men;
You've all had your chance and it won't come again."
"I don't give a stuff if you threaten and shout;
The new rule round here is: one strike and you're out.
Well you've just had your strike and you're having no more,
So step over here and I'll show you the door."
"You can call me a bastard, a shit, a c...vagina,
But I've made up my mind, I'm outsourcing to China.
They'll churn out the pressies for pennies, those chinks,
While I just laze back and enjoy forty winks."
"Deliveries? The contract's now with DHL,
They baulked at the chimneys; I said 'What the hell,
Dump the stuff in the doorway or just leave a note,
Saying 'Collect from the Depot however remote.' "
"I don't care if the parents decide that it's shocking
Or the kids are unhappy there's nought in their stocking;
If the punters don't like it, let 'em phone to complain,
I've a premium-rate line that will drive them insane..."
"...introductory music, a lengthy preamble;
The script? Let's just say that it doesn't half ramble
Before they press buttons for options galore -
Only then can they speak to (guess where) Bangalore."
My eyes - how they twinkled! My dimples how merry!
Quite soon they'd be gone and I'd start on the sherry;
They showed no sign of shifting but what did I care?
I'd call in Security, give them a scare.
But just as I started to reach for my whistle
I heard a voice soft as the down of a thistle:
"Not so fast, Mr Santa," 'Twas Rudolf who spoke.
"And listen up sharp, for this isn't a joke."
"To the brand-name of Santa you may have the right,
But your hold on the rest of the business is shite;
We've registered Christmas and Noël and Yule
(And Thanksgiving and Easter and - yes! - April Fool)."
"We're the Christmas Co-operative. You'd better learn soon
We'll be paying the piper and calling the tune;
We'll have flexible working and full profit share
With a workers' committee to see that it's fair."
"So blow on your whistle, we couldn't care less:
The security men know you've signed G4S,
They feel you've taken them all for a ride,
And their jobs would be gone if they stayed on your side."
"So chew upon that, but get out of our way;
We've gifts to deliver - it's nigh Christmas Day.
Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen
We've got to get started, the schedule needs fixin'.
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So out of the warehouse the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and what could I do...
...except stand there and give them a shake of my fist?
I was mightily '...off' in addition to 'pissed...'
When I heard them exclaim as they drove out of sight:
"It's Happy Christmas to all when the workers unite."
© Also published under the name torr on Ciao UK2012 (with apologies to Clement C Moore)