Most people’s experience of Christmas is nothing like that advertised in the movies – I don’t know about you, but I’ve never single-handedly fought off hardened criminals in my parents’ absence, and if a seasonally-clad Will Ferrell walked into my life, some serious questions would be raised. The holiday season in my household is the same, year on year, although this season we were wild and invested in some multicoloured lights for the hedge. (It would probably be health-and-safety-advised to invest in an epilepsy warning to hang on the front gate, to prevent unwanted law suits ensuing. Maybe next year…) Inside the house, however, the decor is a completely different story, thanks to my older sister who adopts the persona of a ruthless dictator in order to prevent peasants, such as myself, ruining the colour schemes by adding my home-made decorations into the mix. Even the notion…
Tragically, Rod Stewart’s Christmas album was the soundtrack to my Christmases (Christmi?) growing up. When the CD player finally bit the dust, I was able to escape his husky rendition of ‘We Three Kings” (I still have nightmares) and segue into Michael Bublé, who awakes from his 11-month slumber in order to serenade us with seasonal sing-songs on a yearly basis.
Every family has a dodgy relative or two – it’s an unspoken rule. My family really hit the jackpot and ended up with about seven such members, and each year it’s a question of not what will go wrong, but who. Saying that, I’m probably the biggest liability of all.
Anyway, no matter what your Christmas looks like, I hope it’s a snazzy one.
One of the aspects of growing up is gaining the ability to differentiate between your own stories and those of the people that surround you. It can be argued that an important part of becoming an adult is acknowledging that most of your stories don’t belong to you. Of my Christmas stories, I can claim ownership to one, which took place on New Year’s eve so doesn’t really count. For most of the rest, I exist as a background cast member, playing my recurring role of Child Who Doesn’t Really Understand What is Happening, often thinking that I am an integral part, but in reality not being at all important.
Stories are like any other collection. You have to get a hand in starting out, but as the collection grows, it becomes more unique to yourself: more nuanced, more fleshed out, more interesting. I suppose that’s the point of humanity: we are collectors of stories before anything else, exemplified through the millennia-old tradition of campfire storytelling. Without stories we are nothing more than lonely creatures in the dark – they provide us with a sense of self, place, and cultural identity.
I don’t have my own Christmas stories yet. I’ve never drunkenly made dinner for twenty five people, never pulled a night shift on Christmas eve, and never thrown crackers at my partner out of annoyance, anger or farce. I don’t know what it feels like to be the joker, villain or hero in a tale set during this (most wonderful) time of the year, but I imagine I will. I just haven’t stepped into the roles yet.
As a Hearts fan, the Christmas period is unquestionably one of increased trepidation. In years past, at least, more fixtures during this period translates into more defeats: that is the Hearts way… But there is still positivity in the festive period!
Christmas has always been a time of collaboration between myself and my sister; a temporary truce from the chaos of ordinary life. Putting up the tree together has been a tradition, and one that has lasted through the passing of time. And although things are changing – with leaving home next year – I will still always need to come back to help put up the tree.
Doing Christmas-specific activities is also something that seems to have waned with the times, perhaps understandably. As young kids, I can remember us traversing the Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens, so excited to go on the rides. This year, visiting the market only brought out the remarks “wow, that’s expensive” and “it’s all been monetised”. A sad reflection on how perception changes with age.
However, I can confirm that, given the opportunity, we will not hesitate to build a snowman!
It’s Christmas time once again and so the everlasting argument: is Die Hard a Christmas film? There is a clear answer: of course it is! The film is set during Christmas, what more proof do you need.
At the time, I didn’t understand why my Nan couldn’t host Christmas. It was – to use that overused word at this time of year – ‘tradition’. Simple, happy tradition: pigs in blankets, Twiglets, salty potatoes, the Queen at 3 (while sitting at the table), presents thereafter. Then we went home, waving at Nan and Harry – my grandfather who refused to be called ‘grandfather’ or any variation of the term – from the back of the car. I understand now. Nan got old. Simple as that.
So Christmas moved to my Mum and Dad’s. Nan and Harry would drive over. It was 2004, my first year working in a proper job: a cub newspaper reporter at the Gloucestershire Echo in Cheltenham. After Christmas at ‘home’, I drove back to Cheltenham to work the Boxing Day shift. I was in at 8, I suppose, arriving to a largely empty newsroom, anticipating a slow, turgid day. Nothing happens on Boxing Day. That’s a tradition, too.
We monitored the Press Association wires. News dribbled in. There were reports of deaths in south-east Asia. A tsunami, it was established, striking shortly before 1am. I remember the death toll being eight, then 20, then 50, and then spiralling, and – like every single news organisation on the planet – we scrambled for news, scrambled for ‘local interest’. The hairs on my arm bristle as I write these words even now, some 15 years later. We were not short of ‘local interest’. I can’t imagine anyone was.
I won’t forgot that Christmas, that dreadful Boxing Day when some 230,000 people – an unfathomable number – lost their lives. It reminds me how lucky I am.