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Not quite sure if this is in the right place but couldn't find anywhere that suits it better so apologies if it shouldn't be here and good will to all men.
Ok..........so let me get this straight from the start. I am not against Christmas altogether, and I know most people love it so I am probably in the minority.
What I AM against is what Christmas has become. For me personally, I think it's a lovely time to spend with your loved ones and to eat and drink and be merry. So what's the problem you may ask?
1. The first thing that winds me up is that it starts as soon as the kids go back to school in September. I'm sure we would all enjoy it more if the first you heard of it was the 1st of December. It's not like you can avoid it either. The shops are full of crap, oops sorry, lovely things, that you just must have to have the perfect Christmas. Radio D.J's tell you how many shopping days there are left, and drag out Slade and Wizard and you can't watch anything on the telly without being bombarded by adverts for the latest must have perfume, c.d, sofa (Who actually buys a new sofa just because it's Christmas?) Makes my blood boil!!
2. Presents. I think Christmas is lovely for children especially for small children who still believe but presents for brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles, parents, husbands, wives, the dog, the teacher, friends, friends children, the boss. Forget it! I don't have a huge family but we made an agreement a couple of years ago that we will only buy for children and the adults will all get together for a slap up meal and to spend time with each other. Works brilliantly and let's face it, you buy your mother- in -law a voucher as you don't know what to get her and she does the same for you. What's the point of that? And even worse is the one where someone buys some novelty gift tat for you that gets put in a drawer and binned a few months later and you do the same back. Who gains from this? I'll tell you who! The shops and businesses who rely on all us sheep buying tat year after year and lining their pockets.
3. Which leads me onto commercialism. I hate it! I hate shopping full stop, especially for stuff I am brainwashed into thinking I must have for a great Christmas. This list includes: mince pies, nuts in their shells, tangerines, a real Christmas tree, the right baubles and tinsel to go on it, a big fat Turkey, mistletoe, Christmas pudding, crackers, a box of Quality Street, a CD with all the same old Christmas songs on it, some outside lights, a bottle of Baileys, a bottle of sherry (just in case), sprouts, some fancy cheese, a new outfit, special cards for family members and a box of special biscuits.
Don't get me wrong, I shall probably buy all these and more as my husband seems to think that we should have them in the house along with more booze than is necessary, but why should we feel that we need it? Again, one winner as anyone who has been in a supermarket on Christmas Eve will tell you. It's chaos and you would think the shops were shutting for a whole week, not just at most, two days.
4. Spoilt children. If you have a dog and walk it on Boxing Day, you will see mountains of cardboard and waste from Christmas Day stuffed in the bins and over flowing. Mine was probably as bad when the kids were younger and some people are worse than others. They will spend hundreds and hundreds on their kids to make sure they have a great Christmas. It just seems wrong to me. The real meaning of Christmas is lost in a sea of greed and gluttony. Oh heck, I sound like a right miserable so and so don't I? lol
5. Christmas cards. Who actually likes sitting and writing a mountain of cards? It's a chore to get out of the way but we all do it to some extent. I had to laugh a few years ago. I was at my mam's house around Christmas time and spotted a card to my parents from my nanna. Nothing unusual about that you may say but she had been dead for eight years! My mam said she kept all her nice "special cards" and put them out every year and wished we would do the same instead of giving the shops money every year so that was another job knocked off the list. Tried it with the in- laws but they were having none of it though.
I bet we all think we have written all the cards we need to and then through the letter box pops one from someone you had forgotten to do one for and you go to find your box of cards and find there are none left so back to the shops you go. Oh what joy!
6. Putting the trimmings up too early. I think this shouldn't be allowed till December. Christmas lasts for a couple of days not two whole months! Can't wait to get mine put away on New Years Day and get back to normal.
7. The financial strain. Many organised people save all year round to afford the Christmas they want and that's great but a lot of people go into debt and are still paying for last Christmas when the next one comes around. Is it worth going into debt for? Not for me but for some it must be, as lots of people struggle. But then everyone seems to find even more money for the January sales to go and buy even more stuff that they possibly don't need. Crazy. Actually, just thought, they aren't all spending. Some are returning some of the tat to exchange for something they DO want which kind of proves my point don't you think?
Ok so I am going to stop there. I could probably go on and on and as I said before, I know a lot of people won't think the same as me and love Christmas but I will wish you all a "Happy Christmas" even though it's not even December yet and don't expect a Christmas Card! lol
As a child my brother and I always had a 'hamper' given to us on Christmas eve. In it was a selection of goodies to get us into the festive mood.
Now I have my own house and a daughter who is this year old enough to appreciate a hamper I have already prepared one for her!
Her hamper consists of new pyjama's these are an essential for Christmas eve in my house, I always wash the bedding Christmas Eve and there is nothing nicer than having a nice wash then putting on clean pj's and lying in lovely clean sheets. This leads me onto the second item in the box a festive tube of kids bubble bath. A tradition in my house is to have a lovely long soak on Christmas eve.
After my daughter has had her bath and put her new pj's on I have got her a festive DVD, this year I have bought Mickey Saves Santa for a few quid on Amazon, we will watch this together while having a nice hot chocolate and eating the chocolate coins I have put in her hamper.
In her box I have also put some items for her to leave for Santa firstly a wooden key which tells Santa that as we don't have a chimney he needs to use this 'magic' key to get into our house. Closer to the big day I will also leave a carrot for Rudolph and a Mince Pie for Santa.
The final item in the box is a Christmas book, I have already bought this and staying on the Mickey Mouse theme I have bought her a board book of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at Christmas. We will read this together before she has an early night.
Once my daughter is tucked up in bed then the construction of toys starts! I have already got her a wooden kitchen which will need building and a pushchair. As a single parent I have to do this all alone so I will be having a glass of wine and maybe listening to Christmas music on the radio while preparing the living room for the morning.
I am really excited about Christmas this year and now it is November I can officially say it's Christmas next month! I have already bought all of my gifts as I was super organised! I can't wait until the big day!
When we were growing up, Christmas was never really an exciting time for me. I have vague memories of being chucked money in a card and that was it. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not being ungrateful, but as a small child you want it to be magical) I was set on my decision that once I had children then I would make it as magical and exciting as possible for them.
The run up...
On the first on December our little Elf arrives (part of the Elf on the Shelf tradition) He is kept safe from prying hands on a shelf during the day, then is placed in a 'scene' around the house each day. For example the children will one day find that elf is hanging from the lampshade, or has made snow angels on the worktop with flour. Elf can bring them little treats and craft activities to do throughout the month, rather like an advent calendar but a little more fun (& healthy!)
Our usual tradition for the tree is that the 'boys' which is my partner and my little boy go to collect a tree from a local farm on or around the 15th, they usually come back with one that's far too big and needs cutting, us girlies usually sort through all the decorations and have a crafty mince pie.
Christmas Eve is when Elf goes back to Santa to report back on any bad behaviour, and takes Santa's Christmas lists to him. Elf usually leaves some new Christmas pyjamas to wear on Christmas eve. We usually have a buffet style meal on Christmas Eve or a take away. The kids leave out a mince pie and a cup of milk for Santa, and a carrot for Rudolph, then head to bed in their cosy new pyjamas.
The big day...
Christmas day, we all wake up and open our stockings first. We usually buy small items for the stockings, then open main presents. We don't buy huge amounts for our children, usually a couple of good quality toys each, and we aren't the types to fill a whole room with presents! After the presents are opened we have a lovely breakfast of croissants and pastries. Our morning is usually spent visiting relatives, and last year we 'did' Christmas, this year however we've decided to be a little selfish and just have it as the 4 of us. It was just too hectic last year with a houseful and we didn't enjoy the day. For lunch or tea we will have the usually roast dinner and pull crackers with a glass of champagne or two. For supper we will have a selection of cold meats, pickles, leftovers and puddings (this is by far my most favourite bit!)
Boxing Day is usually spent with relatives, or my dad who puts on a second Christmas day for us. In the same fashion as the above. Lots of delicious foods to be had, it's no wonder we put on weight over Christmas.
We aren't religious people, so I suppose that makes us a bit hypocritical to celebrate the day. I do however hope that my children remember the magic of Christmas for long after they no longer believe. I also thinks it's lovely for them to have a day of being spoilt (they don't have many toys all through the year.
I know it is only September but I love Christmas, being an only child Christmas was always a lovely quite time in my childhood home and I still love going back to spend Christmas with my parents who have always had the same traditions.
Christmas preparations would normally begin in October, usually in half term with the making of the Christmas cake. This may seem quite early but a traditional rich fruit Christmas cake is made in advance to give it time to mature and to be fed slowly with alcohol. My mum has always used the same recipe and at a certain point in the making I would be told to close my eyes, stir the mixture and to make a wish. Then the cake would be placed in the oven for several hours which would fill the house with the most delicious smell that would make it feel like Christmas already.
From October to the day itself some Saturdays would consist of shopping trips for presents. Then on the traditional 12th night before Christmas the tree and decorations would be put up, this is still a tradition now as I will visit my parents and help to put there decorations up, obviously with a glass of something alcoholic to mark the occassion.
Christmas itself now will always consist of the same traditions, Christmas Eve will be a cosy evening at home watching TV and eating the precooked ham joint with cheese board and nibbles and obviously a little tipple to wash it all down. Even now my mum will still leave a plate with a mince pie, carrot and glass of Sherry out for Santa/Rudolph (the Sherry glass is also still empty by morning). Christmas day itself will begin with present opening with a glass of buck fizz followed by a light breakfast. Around 1pm the traditional Christmas dinner will be served which is the same each year, turkey, pork, stuffing, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli, brussels and lashings of gravy followed by Christmas pudding with my mums homemade rum sauce. Later in the day we will have afternoon tea where the mince pies and the homemade Christmas cake will be cut and in the evening a small buffet consisting of all the leftover cooked meats etc will be laid out on the table and nibbled at during the night.
Boxing day is normally a repeat of Christmas day without the present opening which although is the same I think its really nice as it seems to prolong Christmas a little which always seems to go so fast after the weeks of planning and building up to it.
Although this may seem like a quite simple Christmas with quite basic traditions to me it is very special as it reminds me of my childhood and every year that I get to spend Christmas with my parents is very special and something that I never take for granted. I think everyone has there own traditions at this magical time of year and this is what helps to make it special. There is only one thing to me that would make Christmas even more special and that was if we had some snow!
For some reason the working-class need to start early in their expression of Christmas. After the final 'fizz, crackle and pop' of Guy Fawkes and little Dale has lobbed his last soggy Airbomb Repeater through an old person postbox the sink estate continues its iridescent blaze as the Christmas bulbs are dusted down for the annual light show spectacular as the National Grid begins to groan. Garden trees will be strangled by pulsating fairy lights whilst huge plastic Santa Clause park up in the front garden with the old mattress and busted toys awaiting a good kicking by passing drunks.
Dave at number seven has gone all out with his ostentatious display and people slow down to view the glowing treat. Not because of the pure wonderment, originality and power of the lights but because his roof has caught fire from overloading the non waterproof sockets. 91 in every 100 house fires happen in rented council property. Why the new working-class need to spend so much money on Christmas lights is no doubt the same reason they will spend a weeks wages on some Versace jeans but you would never catch the middle-class being this ostentatious and obvious. For the older ones you put the tree up on Christmas Eve and a reef on the door knocker and be done.
The point of Christmas seems to be purely about bringing together family members to have a huge din. A family is a collection of people forced together you wouldn't normally pick as your friends and that can only lead to conflict. Christmas is that time of the year we all come under huge pressure and quickly exposed by your mum and kin as that person you were as a kid and there's no hiding place matey! Now the old man has gone from the Ellis clan my younger brother plays the paternal role because he is on the most money whilst my sister turns up in a childlike mood so to secure further borrowing from mum to get through another year of debt. She may as well suck her thumb and be wearing a nappy it's that obvious. I'm the 'know all' in the family, of course, and so the butt of all the jokes. And the rowing can be over just about anything, from broken Christmas lights to how much Turkey you're going to get. But the rules of planet Earth are that the family sticks together and Christmas is our penance.
I have to win, simple as. But my mum always wants my older brother to win them and so more rows ensue. I'm good at general knowledge and so I try to just win by dipping at the tape but my mum always moves the tape towards my brother. My sister just plays the idiot during the quiz to secure that money to pay off her debt. Guess Who, Boggle, Outburst, Millionaire, Trivial Pursuit....I have to win!
Martin Lewis of moneysavingexpert.com said adults should stop giving each other presents as we buy each other something we may as well buy ourselves. We tend to spend roughly the same amount of cash on each and the whole thing becomes reciprocal and sterile. Guys, of course, just want to know what you want so no to disappoint and will always tell their loves ones what to get them, very wimple and effective system. I suppose you could just buy what you want for yourself and wrap it up and stick it under the tree but then if you did that then where's the fun in your mum insisting you save every slice of used wrapping paper for next year! To me Christmas is for little kids and our opinion is irrelevant.
The most stressful part of the day for mum is cooking the Christmas dinner. They want praise for all their efforts after martyring themselves over the stove but by the time it comes around for the meal you have been shouting at each other all morning and you don't quite feel like it. Offer to make the Christmas dinner is an even worse idea as it has to be cooked in a certain way and order. Although women boast about multitasking they do seem to be all over the place when it comes to the Christmas dinner. For me one should share the tasks and get pi**ed doing it and not take it so seriously.
Apparently Stephen Fry will be on our TV screens some 137 times this Christmas and New Year, according to one TV supplement. Most of that will be repeats but it doesn't bare thinking about, even for Stephen, another ferry ticket to Belgium to come.
Looking at the schedules it has to be the worse ever Christmas TV with very few big film debuts on terrestrial and few Christmas specials, Eastenders clear favorite to be the most popular show ratings wise at 1-6 on with Hills. Dr Who is the only decent show on Christmas Day and so the board games coming out early. But with 120 other channels to flick though it all gets rather diluted and you do wonder how those small TV stations can survive. Looks like Man V Food and Top Gear for me.
The doorbell rings and there they are laden with presents and conversation, the once a year catch up we are all contracted to suffer. Sometimes you just want to ignore the doorbell and hide as you know this is going to be all about how well their family is doing and how fertile they are compared to your side of the family. The presents are usually things to wash with and so hardly complimentary and they plough through your chocolates as if there will never be chocolate again. I hate relative visits!
If you want the flu or the Noro Virus then go out and do some last minute Christmas shopping. Everyone is out and banging into each other and we all dive under the collar as someone crashes out a cough and sneeze. Christmas Eve, of course, is the only time the middle-class use town centre public toilets (come on, admit it. You have never done a 'number two' in a public toilet!) and so every germ going up for grabs from the great unwashed!
Christmas Pi** up
Beers with work mates can be hit and miss. It's a rare chance to get off with the office crumpet and occasional one of the plane ones scrubs up better than you thought. Mostly, though, it's slagging the boss off and wishing you were working for someone else, which gets back to the boss and you can no longer book that week off you wanted in the summer. The purpose of the work booze up seems to be to just pitch workers against workers than actually achieving harmony. All good fun though.
It's always grey and misty on Christmas Day. It's always mild as well. The bookies pay out if one single snowflake fall on the UK yet we have still only had five of those in the blast twenty years, only two in England in the last thirty years. Just for once can we have snowflakes falling on Christmas Day so we actually remember what Christmas is about because to be honest I have forgotten.
I am sure most of us will have Christmas traditions of one sort or another. Some will have come from our own childhoods and have been altered, added to or adapted when we reached adulthood.
Having one sister much older than myself I was often a sort of 'only child', through she would try and make it home for Christmas Day.
Not having a car or relatives living in close proximity our Christmas was always spent with just myself, my sister before she had her own family, and our parents.
Decorations were always put up three weeks before Christmas - and even today I can recall that this always ended with an argument - my father would want things done in a precise way and would supervise myself and my mother and if some of the ceiling decorations were not straight etc an argument would ensue - so much so that instead of being fun we knew what would happen each year.
Cards would be written - and you had a certain thing that you had to write: 'To ...., hope you have a very Happy Christmas, Lots of love, ....'.
Christmas morning I would have a sack of gifts at the foot of the bed - and my parents would come in to watch me opening the gifts - it was a happy time and then we would have lunch - always turkey with sprouts and stuffing. There would also be an iced cake, plenty of chocolates and Christmas pudding.
Dad would always raise a toast to 'absent friends' - which I always assumed to be his own mum, and he would be very good and not cause an argument on the actual day itself.
In the afternoon I would enjoy my gifts (which must contain some books) and we would watch TV - black and white then - and have turkey sandwiches for supper.
Just before bedtime I would take all my gifts to my room - and Dad would say that next Christmas was as far away as it could be.
The week from Christmas to New Year was always spent at home - not going out or having visitors - just watching TV really.
After having my sons and my mum being widowed Christmas became different.
For one thing I always made putting up the decorations a fun time (I hope) - and if the boys put up things in a higgledy piggledy way nothing was said.
We began the tradition of having Santa leaving the gifts in the living room grate - much easier for him (!) - and we always left him the first slice of cake and some orange juice, plus some carrots for the reindeer.
Presents would be opened in the morning and then my mum picked up and we would have lunch - again the usual turkey and trimmings - but usually with ice cream or some light pudding.
We would play with the boys until about 5 pm when The Snowman would come on - which signalled 'wind down' time when mum was taken home and we had a quieter evening - in theory anyway.
Now boys and grown and mum passed away. Christmases still follow the same form with lunch at 1pm - lovely laid table and with sprouts (which we don't like but we have to have!).
There is a tiny stocking on the tree that youngest son made in primary school and now which every year is hung on the tree and I have to find a tiny gift to fit into it.
We love getting the decorations down as it brings back so many memories of Christmases past and where and when we bought the items. I still have a few bits and pieces from my own childhood Christmases but I have saved these with some other treasures as I did not want them getting broken when the boys were younger.
I like the more traditional sort of Christmas cards - not religious ones exactly but ones with snowy villages and churches and robins - I do not like the newer trendy sort with purple and silver - for us Christmas colours are red and green and gold.
So while Christmas does of necessity change year by year, as children grow and people die, there is always an element of continuity which makes it special.
Many traditions are general and not specific to us - the sending of cards, letters to Santa, buying crackers, wearing hats when eating Christmas lunch, plus the biggest tradition of all - which is of course Father Christmas.
Also the fact that in general people do seem to have a more friendly way about them in the run up to Christmas and the days do feel sort of magical - especially Christmas Eve and Christmas morning - or am I just viewing things through rose-tinted spectacles?
However the alternative is too horrible to imagine - that Christmas would mean nothing and not be at all special - that it would be just another day like any Sunday - that we would not waste time and money on cards and presents or make a special effort to visit and keep in touch with friends and relatives - doesn't sound very nice does it?
When I was young it seemed like families had more traditions. For instance in my grandparents house, the evening meal was served at 5:00, every night. Never 5:05, always on the dot. You showed up reasonably clean, sat politely while the food was brought out, shared in pleasant conversation, and helped clear away after your meal. This was not optional, you couldn't say you just eat later,and of course microwaves were non existent. There were other traditions, big or small, like pocket money on a Friday, Church on Sunday, etc...
But now we tend to take things as they come. That's OK sometimes, I'll admit, my children eat whenever they feel hungry, and if that isn't at meal time, I don't mind leaving a plate in the microwave. But I think it is so much more important now, with such busy lives that we take the time to create family traditions. Traditions help children understand their place in the world, they help define family, and create lasting bonds and memories. Although I am very much a spur of the moment person and love creating surprises for my boys, I also like somethings that are done the same way, year after year, that give us something to look forward to with the holidays.
Here are a few of our favourite holiday traditions, I really hope everyone will join in, as I look forward to reading about other peoples traditions for the holidays too.
Stories : We start getting ready for Christmas quite early with lots and lots of Christmas stories. I know of course the children will eventually outgrow this, but we can start having Christmas movies as they grow older.
The Polar Express: We take a trip every year on an old fashioned steam engine to see Santa. We read the polar express and watch the movie before hand.
Christmas Decorations: We always buy one thing each year to add to our decorations, but more importantly we always make something too. Children love making their own decorations and it's a great way to pass a winter afternoon.
Advent Calender : Of course you can buy so many calenders with the treats included, but we use cloth ones every year. You can put a small treat, a Hotwheels car, a chocolate, a sticker, a coin, or a picture of someplace fun you are going to take the children that day. I do think this is much more fun then getting the same gift each day. I am afraid if we get the prepared advent calenders, the children just open them all at once.
Christmas baking: We make a shaped cake, a snowman or tree, or even a gingerbread man every year. The children seem to like this so much more then the pies I make for adults. We also have great fun baking and decorating Christmas biscuits. We spend all day Christmas Eve baking ( and then Mom cleaning).
Christmas Eve: We start the day with Santa Tracker, a website that shows Santa's journey around the world, and check often throughout the day. He starts off with Australia and makes his way around the world delivering gifts. Then It's baking time. We just have party foods for dinner, and always watch a Christmas movie or two. Tomorrow we will be starting with Santa vs the Snowman in 3-d. Then the children get one small present each - always a board game, and a new set of pj's and the rest of the evening is spent playing board games. Finally we will have another reading of a great stack of Christmas books and a last check of Santa Tracker so see how close Santa is before bed.
Of course most of these ideas will be outgrown as they grow older, but we will find new ones to replace them. The important thing is that we always make the time to be together. We play board games or PS7 on Christmas Eve is not as important as that we play together.
Finally, we have Christmas scrapbooks and the children help put in pictures and decorations each year, so we can look back over all the earlier Christmases.