I got back from America last week and miraculously managed to swerve the jetlag that leaves me as disorientated as an MP at a rave and disproportionately grizzly. I’m back for Christmas and to be with my family as I have been every year since childhood. It’s going to be strange when (if) I have a family of my own and I experience the dilemma of how to make sure we see all our respective family members over the holiday period. But luckily, for now, I just have to worry about me and there’s nowhere I’d rather be than at my mum’s house.
For the Osho’s, the ritual begins around late November when mum tentatively asks me and brothers what our plans will be. This is what’s so darling about my mum. She never assumes but always hopes we’ll want to spend Christmas with her and when we confirm we will, she always seems genuinely surprised and delighted.
The next milestone is the Christmas decorations. As the years have rolled by, mum has stealthily reduced the amount she puts up until one year she mused that she might not have a tree. That didn’t go down well so now, even the tree is quite a squat little affair, we still have one. There’s no stockings or advent calendars but there’s enough to feel… ‘christmassy’.
And we have to have crackers. It used to be my job, as a kid, to wedge the crackers onto branches of the Christmas tree but now, they are used to adorn the dinner table on Christmas day.
The next event in our shared yuletide calendar is the Christmas service at mum’s church and as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, for the past six years I’ve been the choir mistress for the singing group. Choir mistress is a very grand title given that all I do on the day is wave my hands around in the vague hope that it’ll help them sound good or at least not make the congregation subtly slip their ear plugs in.
Rehearsals started late this year as I only got back last week and we’re performing this evening but I think we’re gonna be OK. We’re singing Joy To The World and From Heaven You Came, The Servant King. The latter isn’t so well known, but it’s grown on me over our three rehearsals. Well, fingers crossed for us.
On Monday, mum is making one final reconnaissance mission to the supermarkets to get all the fresh food needed for our Christmas day feast, including of course the turkey!
Christmas Eve and everything is ready for the 25th. During the day, mum will start to make noises about going to the midnight service. Uptake in our household has been, let’s say, inconsistent on this front. Some years, me and my brothers have been keen to tag along, other days, not so much.
It’s a sweet little service and the few hardy souls that make it, mean it’s warm and intimate.
There’s lots of hugs and handshakes and best wishes for the new year. It starts at about 11.30 and we’re usually done by about 12.30am.
The one thing I’ve learned about Christmas Eve is, don’t go out and get drunk. I’m not talking about a few beers with a mate, I’m talking about on the lash. I did that one year and had a filthy, level 5 armagademic hangover the following day ruining my own Christmas. Given how much I love being with the family at this time, it was a foolish mistake of youth and one I vowed never to repeat. Going on the lash can wait til New Year’s Eve!
On the big day itself, I’m up pretty early. There’s Merry Christmasses all round. I’m usually woken by the smell of turkey. Yep, Ma Osho has that bird prepped and in the oven by 9. By 10 she’s off to church for the Christmas day service which is where I draw the line. Three church visits in one week is more than I can handle so I’ll potter, make a Chrimble breakfast of bacon and eggs (knowing it’s going to a while until we eat) and watch a bit of Christmas telly.
Over the course of the day, family will start to drift in, my brother, his wife and young son, my other brother, his girlfriend and grown up daughter, my cousins and her family and any other extended family that might be around. As the years have gone by the family Christmas has gotten bigger and grander and the poor dining table has struggled to accommodate us all, but as I’m sure every household does, you find work-arounds for that special day. That trolley in the corner becomes a table extension, plates and glasses come out of storage, chairs get brought downstairs. It is a full house.
Over the years, the family have perfected a ritual around cooking Christmas dinner which means it is as smooth as a military operation (but less collateral damage – well I suppose the turkey wouldn’t agree).
Mum is on turkey detail. I think she’s the only one who knows what they’re doing. There’s also a smoked ham which she prepares in the days leading up to 25th. She makes side dishes of rice and peas and a Nigeria stew which, believe it or not, go brilliantly with the turkey. The stuffing has to be Marks and Spencer’s pork and chestnut. I’m on vegetables and gravy. There’s not a tub of Bisto in sight. It’s all made from the lovely juices that come from the turkey and takes half an hour of precision alchemy.
My brother and his missus are on starter orders and which they plate up while everything else happens in the kitchen. At this point, timing is everything so it’s all hands on deck. It’s noisy, messy and a lot of fun.
It’s only when we sit down to dinner that the crackers get pulled, paper hats donned and crumby cracker jokes read.
After which we finally get to open the presents which drive the younger ones insane. I feel their pain. When I was a kid the first thing I did was open the gifts. Food and everything else was an irrelevance.
And finally, it’s time for the post dinner constitutional walk. Mum lives in an area where people decorate their houses with so much Christmas lighting their homes are visible from space. It’s an interesting to go and see them first-hand.
Christmas day has, and probably always will be my favourite day of the year. It’s not often you get your whole family together and for me that’s something to cherish. This time of year can be a real challenge for some, or overshadowed by traumatic events from previous years. It can also be a lonely or sorrowful time. Remember this helps me appreciate what I have even more. Yes, sometimes that odd relative might irritate or you may get frustrated by yet another truck load of Lush bathbombs from your aunt but if that’s all you’ve got to worry about, you are a lucky soul indeed.
I hope you have a lovely Christmas with the ones you love and you spend some quality time together.
Love and appreciate each other.
All the best,