Monday, 28 December 2015

Season's Eatings

I'm not very good at organising things for Christmas. We have a cupboard that must be opened with caution, in case there's an avalanche of chocolate boxes and snacky stuff. All that food that I thought I needed to get in for Christmas tea, but everyone was so full after lunch they said, 'Phew, couldn't eat another thing, thank you.' There are now regular calls from someone opening the fridge: 'This should have been eaten three days ago; is it still okay?' If it smells all right, then go for it, I say. But, that cheese looks a bit dodgy and our rabbits are getting so fat on expensive vegetables. I know there are awful statistics on how much gets thrown out per family, and we rarely waste food, so I feel dreadfully guilty at binning anything. 

For the second year running, we went out for our family Christmas dinner. With The Daughter and her boyfriend safely back in Cornwall, my parents came with us to a nearby restaurant, where we had a wonderful lunch and left the washing-up and a large tip to other people. On the way there, Son Number One plugged his iPod into the car speakers and we had to listen to Elvis. He said that's what happens when you're forced to listen to BBC Radio 2 all day at work - you start liking crap music. He played a bit of early Stevie Wonder, and I told him I didn't mind that, as it was Motown. 'No, it's not,' he said. 'It's Stevie Wonder.' To which Son Number 2 (the guitar player) rolled his eyes and sighed. 

For the first time, my uncle declined to join us. Instead, he stayed at home with a ready-meal and the Christmas Downton Abbey special. My parents said he was being a grumpy bugger, but I could see the appeal. Not of Downton Abbey, but of making less fuss and feeling obliged to join the festivities. We don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday - more of a family one. But not being Christians doesn't mean we can avoid Christmas. I feel a hypocrite for taking part in the celebrations. If anything, I celebrate Yule, but none of us have the option of saying, 'Actually, can I work through Christmas, because it's not my thing?' It's how our holiday calendar is set up and that's that. So if my uncle wants to lock the door and have a normal day, then fine. I've sort of lost respect for the Christmas of today's Western World. If it was purely a proper religious festival, then great, but for too many people, it's now an over-dressed, tarted-up time to have too much stuff. And the commercialism starts in September, for goodness sake. I've seen too many photos on Facebook from people who are saying, 'Hey, look at the big pile of presents I got! Look at how much money people spent on me!' 

I'm going back a bit now, but when I was little, yes, we got together as a family, but even the youngest children got dragged to Midnight Mass by my Grandparents. I remember trying not to fall asleep during the sermon, and being brought back to life every time we had to stand up and sing. Then I would be mightily embarrassed, because I thought everyone would be looking at the little girl standing next to the big Yorkshireman who was singing too loudly. My Grandmother would sing in a very high-pitched voice, which would get my cousins and me giggling and into trouble. Maybe it was because I was younger, but Christmas seemed simpler and more important, even when I was a little six-year-old heathen. There was a Christmas tree in the corner of the kitchen, but that was it, decoration-wise. It's never going to be a religious holiday for me, but I wish it could be quieter and more respectful. 

Anyway, despite me saying that I'm not good at planning things, we have already organised next Christmas. We are going to Cornwall. We've booked a farmhouse, and are going to spend the week with The Daughter and her second family. It's not going to be big and gaudy; it's going to be simple and about the people who are important to us. This plan, as many do, started after a few drinks. We were at my parents' house on Boxing Day evening, and my mum said, 'I wonder what we'll be doing this time next year?' And Son Number One said, 'Well, you know Sis keeps saying about Christmas in Cornwall...' Then my dad said, 'Why not? Let's do it.' (Which is the opposite of what he said when we kind of hinted about it last year.) So, now we're booked up. Daughter's boyfriend's parents have converted some barns on their farm, and we'll be staying in one of them. And even though the alcohol has worn off, we all still want to go. Sorted.

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