Monday, November 10, 2008

Yep, it's THAT time of the year again...well, almost...

Christmas is not too far away.

Santa (that's me, folks!) is starting to look in the catalogues, and think Oh-heck-do-I-really-have-to-buy-this-rubbish-for-the-kids?

She's already suffered through one K-Mart sale, and doesn't particularly want to have to deal with another. She's also wondering if the toys the kids want really are as flimsy and rubbishy as they look (yes, they really are!), and whether plastic a) really does never break down and b) really does cause cancer (the answers are a) yes, and b) probably).

I both loathe and love Christmas, and the only reason I am posting about it now is that I can do so with a relatively sane mind before the horrible Muzak 'Deck the Halls' type Carols that get piped through every store music system make me want to deck the salespeople.

Why I loathe Christmas

I loathe the commercialism. Now, I know you're going to say that if I want to, I can avoid it. Just look the other way. Sure I can do that. Yeah, right. HA! You see, I also have a four year old son and a one year old daughter, and they're staring straight at the marketing hype.

My son has been known to spend hours on end perusing 'Thomas The Tank Engine' catalogues, and was bitterly disappointed when I informed him that the Twelve Days Of Christmas didn't mean you get twelve days of presents. And my daughter, not yet two, is fully capable of unclipping herself from the stroller, navigating her way through the Meridian to K-Mart, grabbing a shopping basket, and dumping My Little Pony toys into it.

As any parent will know, kids know all about Christmas from an early age, and they're really good at laying the guilt down. And we get suckered in to it. My son just had his fourth birthday, and it really did make me feel good to see how much he enjoyed his gifts, mostly of the 'Thomas' ilk. My daughter just loves her ponies. They're mostly harmless. I can't exactly give them nothing, not when all the other kids get stuff, can I? Besides, I had presents (also mostly complete trash) when I was a kid, and yet I turned out okay. Didn't I? Didn't I!!!

So yes, I loathe the commercialism. And in my family, we not only get dumped with commercial Christmas, but also Hannukkah, and not-so-commercial-but-still-gift-encumbered Midsummer as well. It's a quintuple whammy, book-ended on both sides with kids' birthdays (and mine, which seems to get forgotten these days *sniff*). Ouch. The plastic NastyCard is practically melting.

I've hardly mentioned 'Harry Connick Junior's Christmas Album'. Or 'Kylie Does Christmas'. About the only good thing on The Box is the 'Doctor Who Christmas Special', and that's always late here in the Antipodes!

Why I love Christmas

There is also much to love about Christmas.

I love the fact that our whole family gets together, even though I suspect that this year's Christmas may be the last time we do that, due to distance. I hope that the whole crowd will come over here next year, but my hopes aren't great.

I love the fact that my mother goes completely overboard with food, and we're stuck with bloody turkey for weeks on end, and I won't even mention how much ham - and I don't even eat the stuff. Christmas pudding, though - yum!

I love the way the kids go bananas, and eat too much, and play too much, and they love ripping open their toys, and are absolutely delighted in the way that I was delighted when I too received little lumps of plastic crap passed off as toys years ago. I remember how thrilled I was when I used to get presents, and seeing them in action brings it all back.

I love the way Dad tolerates Mum listening to carols for twenty-four hours straight, and he even tolerates her off-key singing, instead of whinging and telling her to tone it down.

I love the way there's rubbish on TV and stupid jokes in the Christmas crackers, and we see old friends who are so much a part of the family that they're relatives to me.

I love the chaos and the noise and the friendship and the love, and the way that we all just seem to get along better on Christmas than we do on any other day. I love waiting for the phone calls from England, and I love Dad cursing because the phone calls come at three in the morning. And in a small, deep, sad way I love the way I'll miss those phone calls that won't come this year because the callers are dead now, and we will miss them and drink to them, and they are gone.

I love the way Mum plans her attack on the Christmas sales even while she's wondering how on earth to store all the stuff she already owns and doesn't use. I love the way I laugh at her for it, and criticise her for it, but how I always go with her anyway.

Christmas is a time for memories of what it was like as a kid, and for creating joyful times for my kids that will become memories of their own when they have grown.

Christmas - past, present, and future

So now Christmas is on its way again, and I am doing some things the same, and some things different. Some traditions are kept, and others pass on. But one thing I have done for a long time is sing carols with friends, and I'll be doing that back in Adelaide, where I'll be having Christmas, and here, if I can find suckers to join me and walk the streets singing. That's a tradition my parents never had, but one that I have and hope to pass on.

Because, above all, Christmas for me is a time for family, friends, and music. These three things are the strands that make up the memories that are Christmas, and they are what makes it strong and wonderful.

Long after the toy catalogues are gone, and my son has perhaps moved on from Thomas The Tank Engine to real train sets, I'll still have my carolling books. And each Christmas we'll still open up their green covers, and sing about Good King Wenceslas in the snow, and the Holly and the Ivy, and that delicious Boar's Head!

I'll think of all the memories associated with carolling. The Carols By Candlelight picnics in forty degrees in Adelaide, with melted wax dripping on my hands, and happy choristers I hardly knew impressing the young 25 year old me so much because they sang in harmony. The shopping centre fundraiser carolling gigs, where the poor man came in sight and his lyrics were naughtily twisted, because we'd sung the blasted thing twenty times.

The strip mall carolling, and Darren yelling to a five year old: "We're not doing "f***ing 'Jingle Bells'!", then making the kid cry so much we did it again and again. My mother attempting to sing 'O Holy Night' - and failing, but sounding beautiful to me because to me her voice is beautiful.

And lastly, throughout it all, my own memories of me singing, and loving it, and knowing that these songs - good and bad, ancient and new - are a part of me and my blood and my history.

Christmas is music. That's what Christmas means to me. And this year, when Harry croons 'Deck The Halls' and Kylie drags out another budgie impersonation under the guise of a Christmas hit, I'll try to laugh and figure - hey, it's Christmas!


Rosi Crane said...

Bah Humbug! I am soooo pleased my kids are grown up. We can all sleep peacefully in on Christmas Day.
And it's soooooo much easier down here than in 't'other hemisphere. There commercialisation goes bananas, you can buy tacky decorations and all the other parenphenalia from the end of August. Display stands start in one corner of a store and gradually spread out to cover the entire store.
At least it (Christmas) has the advantage of cheering up dark winter days. Though the worst of the weather - sleet snow and icy bits (sounds familiar, remember last week?)- happens in Jan and Feb and if you're really lucky March as well. Brrrr.

Lee said...

You've been given the Dickens, by the sound of things ;-) Hehe. But you also forgot I'm evil.

I won't be in town this year at Christmas, but I have a looooong memory...and now I know you like to sleep in on Christmas morning, I'll remember to come around singing carols with my kids right on your street very early and very loudly on December 25 ;-)

Naaah...even I'm not evil enough for that ;-) Besides, I'll still be too dopey to do anything but vaguely cope with the insanity of gift unwrapping my kids thrust upon me before even the smale fowles maken melodye.

Yes, the commercialism sucks. I hate it. I also hate those perfect prettypretty Christmas decorations they sell by the bucketload in department stores.

To my way of thinking, a tree isn't a real tree unless adorned with paddlepop stick decorations made by generations of totally un-artistic kids, and the angel at the top isn't a real angel unless her halo is askew and her wings have been chewed by a baby (or a pet - same diff really) somewhere along the line...

And when you discuss the weather in Europe at Christmastime, I can so completely see why my parents migrated from deepest, darkest England. Of course, then I had the idea to leave Adelaide for the warm and sunny climes of Dunedin! Wheeeeee!