Hallowe’en is over, Bonfire Night is behind us, so that can mean only one thing… it’s CHRIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSSSSSSTTTMAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAS!
December 25th is almost upon us and I, for one, am ready to unleash my inner Noddy Holder. Okay, that sounds a bit weird, admittedly, but the sentiment still stands: I am full of festive cheer and I am loving it. In fact, the main reason I am so enthusiastic about it this year is that I have only recently rediscovered my Christmas mojo. Up until a few years ago, I was in danger of becoming a bit of a Scrooge.
Let me just say for the record (and in case my parents are reading this) that I loved Christmas as a kid. I spent a large chunk of my childhood living abroad and Mum and Dad went to great lengths to make the festive season magical even though we were far away from our family and friends. When we moved home, Christmas gave us a chance to get together with our loved ones and it was always brilliant.
But, once I grew up and there were no children in the family any more, I felt Christmas had lost a bit of its sparkle. That coincided with the start of my career as a journalist – a 24/7 job that doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. Newsrooms are always staffed on Christmas Day: someone has to report on the Queen’s Speech, Christmas Number One and keep their eye on the Santa Tracker, after all. Shift work can be a cruel mistress – just ask any doctor, nurse, paramedic, firefighter or police officer – perhaps never more so than during the festive season.
As a result of my job, I spent every Christmas and/or Boxing Day for a decade – at work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad: the extra money is nice and scoffing a family-sized tin of Quality Street with one’s colleagues at 6am is quite the bonding experience – but it’s not the same as being at home,
arguing with enjoying the company of your loved ones. I started to think of Christmas as something everyone else did while I was at work; leaving the house at 4am, getting home for Christmas Dinner at 5pm, before falling asleep on the sofa. My festive cheer extended to buying presents for friends and family, going to the work Christmas do and attending Midnight Mass with my Mum. Other than that, I couldn’t really be bothered – I didn’t even buy a tree! Bah Humbug, indeed.
And so it was that I found myself on maternity leave three years ago, contemplating my first proper Christmas at home in a decade, with a four month old baby in tow. Suddenly, I was a bit more enthusiastic about everything: the pressure was on to give my son a first Christmas to remember. I now know, of course, that a baby’s first Christmas has very little to do with the child and everything to do with the parents. He had no clue what was going on – which was just as well, as I dressed the poor kid up in a reindeer onesie and sent the resulting photo to everyone in my address book. I made festive rocky road for our NCT Christmas gathering, Googled the hell out of the phrase “stocking fillers for under ones,” and coerced my husband into staying up way past midnight on Christmas Eve to assemble a Jumperoo. Unsurprisingly, my son was only really interested in the wrapping paper, but I had discovered an enthusiasm for Christmas that I never knew I had in me.
Since then things have only got worse – or better – depending on how you look at it. My older son is now three and just starting to understand the “magic of Christmas” (a phrase that would have made me shudder a decade ago), and his little brother just wants to copy everything he does, so we are really going for it this year. I’m writing this just a few days into December, sitting at the kitchen table with reindeer-shaped fairy lights twinkling around me, the tree already up in the corner of the room, multiple advent calendars on the mantelpiece and a nativity scene sitting on the counter-top, tastefully positioned between the Perfect Prep Machine and the Magimix.
This year, nothing is being left to chance, because I have volunteered to host Christmas at our house. My online supermarket shopping delivery slot has been booked since September, the turkey is on order from M&S and I now own far more Christmas cookbooks than I ever intended to. I have actually devoted serious amounts of energy to working out whether Delia, Nigella or Jamie does the best roast potatoes, which veg to use in the turkey trivet and how the hell I’m going to make sprouts appetising. On nursery photo day, I dressed my children in jaunty, slightly festive knitwear – to ensure that the resulting picture would have maximum Christmas card potential. In short, I barely recognise myself.
Our family Christmas might not win any prizes for stylish décor (pipe-cleaner and paper bauble, anyone?!), and the food definitely won’t be as good as it has been at my Mum’s in the past, but it doesn’t matter. Having children has turned me from a bit of a Scrooge into someone who appreciates the festive season again – and that’s all I need.
Although… if anyone has any ideas on what to do with the sprouts, they’d definitely come in handy.
Like this? You’ll love Geraldine’s last brilliant blog about why she loves being a mum of boys
About Geraldine Cooper
Geraldine is a multimedia journalist who has spent her career working in some of the UK’s busiest newsrooms. Her hobbies include singing, learning useless trivia, watching terrible TV and eating chocolate. She lives with her husband and two young sons in a house in South London which may one day be lost under a pile of unsorted laundry.