• Deborah Allen

Keep it special, keep it in December

It’s that time of year again, it seems we have only just said goodbye to summer and the shops are already full of Christmas cards and decorations and people are complaining about it all being too early, yet why would the shops stock the goods if we were not buying them?

The answer is they wouldn’t.

When I was a child Christmas was a magical time, it crept up on us, there would be no sign, not even a hint about Christmas until the shops put decorations in the windows during the first week of December, yes that’s right Christmas was actually in December back then not September or October.

Shops would get their window displays ready and the tv advertising would start and we would be promised TV specials and the ‘big’ film, the one to be shown on Christmas day would be announced, it was all very exciting.

In our house the first sign of Christmas was when the hamper arrived.

Mum used to pay in week by week for this festive box of delights and in the second week of December the hamper would arrive bursting at the seams with that shredded papery stuff that to us kids looked festive all by itself and containing enough yummy treats to see us through the festive holidays with full tummies and enough sugar to send most dentists into heart failure.

We kids would ‘help’ with the unpacking, mum would carefully lift things out and call out the name of the item so that I could tick it off the inventory list. As she reeled off the names of the products my little brothers would repeat each item like a chorus of echoes ‘one box of brandy snaps ‘mum would say and three little voices would echo ‘ooohhh brandy snaps’

After everything was stacked into the cupboards and the box was cleared away mum would make tea and open one of the packets of Christmas biscuits. What are Christmas biscuits you might wonder? Well in the 70’s many things were not sold all year round but rather they arrived only around the festive season and it would be one of these packets (I particularly remember one with a peppermint crème inside) that mum would open.

For me this was the sign that Christmas was really coming.

My husband still calls satsumas Christmas oranges because that was the only time of year we ever saw satsuma in the shops and we always had one in our Christmas stocking. It was those special things, the treats, the excitement, the expectations that made it all so magical.

So why isn’t it as much fun now? Well for a start we are grown-ups, we see Christmas as a costly business, plus it’s a stress trying to juggle work and home, getting a tree up and decorated and then getting the darn thing back out of the house without leaving needles everywhere.

We know the stress of getting the wrong present or worse still forgetting a present or sending the same card as last year or not sending a card and leaving someone off the list which leads to social shaming and a cold shoulder at the next family gathering or PTA meeting.

But does it have to be like that?

Why can’t we see the magic anymore?

Yet again I’m turning to my mum as inspiration because even though she is a grownup she still wears a Christmas hat, you know the one, the red pointed hat with the white fluffy tip and she’s the lady who sets off all the singing Santa’s in the supermarket and then sings along with them. She’s the person who shakes all the snow globes on the shelf and watches all the old Christmas movies time and time again.

Is it silly? Is it childish? Maybe it is but that way it stays special. A big part of the problem in this situation is us, the very people who complain about the lack of magic are the ones who are killing it.

Last week I was in Germany and I saw the Christmas cookies (lebkuchen) but I didn’t buy any because I don’t intend to eat any lebkuchen or mince pies before December and I’m not sure if a packet of cookies could survive unopened for two months in my house.

I want my Christmas time to be special. It’s the same reason I still cook Sunday dinner, I like Sundays to be special and yes it does mean that I often spend the best part of Sunday afternoon in the kitchen but if that’s what it takes then that’s what it takes. We over indulge in luxuries all year round and then wonder why nothing feels special anymore.

Normally I try to be positive when I write but this time I’m giving everyone a scolding. Don’t moan about the shops having all the Christmas stuff too early if you are one of the people out there stocking up and please don’t moan about Christmas or Sundays not being special anymore if you are not willing to put a bit of effort into keeping it that way.

It’s not about keeping every age-old tradition, traditions can be changed and new ones made as families grow and change, it’s about making the effort to take time and use whatever you have to make things feel magical.

So, if you’ve eaten 20 mince pies and three Christmas puddings before December the first don’t be surprised if the enjoyment and excitement of eating them has waned by the time Christmas arrives.

Don’t blame the shops for starting early if you are the one filling your basket with Christmas cake and eating it all before Guy Fawkes has felt the first flicker of flames from the bonfire and if you are one of those people who has their Christmas tree up by Halloween, shame on you!

Do yourself a favour, wait… be patient …let the expectations rise, then when December comes you might just feel the buzz.

Keep it special, keep it magical, keep it in December!


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