Posted by Donkey on behalf of Bekki (@pigwotflies)
Christmas in the PWF family is about, in roughly equal measure: Jesus; food; presents and squeezing as many family members as possible into one room.
This year we’ll all be cramming into my maternal grandma’s house. Granddad died in May and being together is our way of comforting each other and making good things out of sad times. 10 adults and 3 small children (4, 2 and 5 weeks) all squished into a average sized suburban semi should make for coziness and happy chaos.
I love the Jesus aspect of Christmas. To those who believe it, it’s mind-blowingly wonderful and strange. The all powerful creator of the universe becomes a tiny vulnerable human baby, helpless and in need of care. Babies are on my mind a lot this year – I’m writing this with my tiny niece wriggling on my lap. The thought that God could become one, would chose to do so because he loved human beings so much, is amazing.
We will celebrate this marvel with much food and jollification. When I was little (and not so little), we’d cram into my parents’ bed with our stockings (filled by Father Christmas with a little help from Mummy and Daddy) and share treasures, one by one. These days, my 2 sisters and I are all married, some with children, and too grown up for stockings, but the next generation will have that treat. I don’t know how far they go along with Father Christmas. My memory is that we rumbled pretty early that he wasn’t a real person, but we went along with the idea as a piece of tradition, the unchanging rituals of family Christmas. We only ever had stockings in the morning. The serious business of proper presents was saved up until after Christmas lunch.
Church is next. This year that will be the little mission hall where Granddad was minister for many years. For a while, it was a 2 old ladies and a dog sort of place, but in the last few years it’s been revived by a new set of earnest young Presbyterians and their growing young families. There will carols, the theologically sound ones at least and my younger sister and I will sing descants, if we can reach them. Then, it’s back to Grandma’s and all hands on deck to get Christmas lunch prepared. We always have turkey, several different sorts of stuffing, roast potatoes, parsnips, gravy, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, assorted vegetables. There will be evil dwarf cabbages, even if I don’t know why anyone likes them. The feast takes a while to prepare and not much time to eat. But then there’s the washing up. It has to be done before present opening starts and with no dishwasher, it’s a long process.
There will probably be someone who hasn’t wrapped all their presents yet. In the past it used to be Granddad. This year, my money is on Uncle Jon. The rest of us will sit in the living room, waiting for him to finish so we can begin. Present opening is carried out parcel by parcel, so that everyone can see what everyone else receives. We used to fight over being Father Christmas or one of his reindeer (i.e. the person who chose gifts from under the tree and delivered them to their recipient). Maybe this year it’ll be the 4 year old, in bossy big sister mode, with her 2 year old brother helping. There’ll be a break for the Queen’s speech, then back to more presents. Eventually the last present will be opened and we’ll be buried in a snow of coloured paper and presents. Last year the 2 year old was a 1 year old and, in true toddler fashion, enjoyed the boxes and paper more than the presents. The baby’s too little for that, but maybe she’ll enjoy the crinkle of paper and chew on a few bits.
By the end of Christmas day, we’re generally all full of food, presented out and happily tired. Probably someone will get overtired and have a little meltdown that can only be cured with a nap. It’s a funny festival, this traditional fusion of Christian and pagan, with layers of all the past years we’ve spent it together and lots of new bits as new members marry or are born into the family. Maybe future Christmasses will be a little different. Certainly the complexity of keeping in-laws and parents happy and seeing all the people who matter to us keep things moving. We’ll only be all in one place for a day or so before we disperse, Mr PWF and I to my in-laws, others to visit our other surviving Grandparent or friends or their own in-laws. But I like the traditions we’ve created. They keep me connected to the past, to God, to the people I’ve lost and the people I love.