In my last post I talked about my struggle to bring the religious tradition from my childhood into our family Christmas.
It’s especially hard when we are specifically non-religious yet love to fill our home with what we see as an undefinable Spirit.
I have been feeling drawn to bringing a little of my Christian heritage into The Elf’s life. Not the ideology. Just the concept of unconditional love, avoiding judgment of others and forgiveness. I took great great comfort from the spirit of ‘Jesus’ as a child.
Although I would be more attracted to the pagan tradition of celebrating Solstice (I do have a deeper connection of awe and instinct with nature than I do any form of human ideology) I recall comforting childhood memories of playing with the crib my dad made, the nativity and the Christian orientated music of this time of year and I feel it would be lovely to give The Elf an opportunity to at least have access to her religious heritage.
I debated about bringing her to Mass. Our local priest says a lovely Mass. I’ve had the opportunity to hear his Mass during my nieces and nephews christenings so if anything was going to bring me to church it would be this lovely person.
As it got closer I realised it just didn’t feel right. I am not searching for religion- I am searching for a way to recreate my Christmas feelings of wholeness and bring them into our home.
We are still a young family, you see. Although the robotman and I have been living together for seven Christmases, this is the first year where I have felt the innate maternal desire to create Christmas for my girl.
Granted this is our third Christmas with The Elf but this is the first year she is actively taking part in the Spirit of Christmas.
Every day for the last three weeks we have danced to ‘Now that’s what I call Christmas‘. We’ve baked gingerbread families, collected pinecones by the lake, done Christmas crafts, watched Christmas movies, done the advent and eaten plenty of Christmas goodies. We’ve read Christmas books in the library, visited Santa and decorated our house.
This year I had to create Christmas- The Elf’s enthusiasm was contagious.
Aside from all the activities, I have been seeking ways to create Christmas for us- our Christmas.
I have been remembering my childhood Christmases. Christmas Eve with its anticipation, the frantic last minute cleaning, the movies, the smell, the twinkling lights, poking at presents under the tree, new pyjamas, drying our hair by the fire, early to bed and lying in the top bunk with the curtain open and searching the sky for Santa.
Christmas morning up at six and sneaking down the stairs avoiding the sixth step because it squeaks and the excitement of opening up the door to see if Santa had been. Mam would leave the lamp lit and the gas fire was on low so the room would be toasty. We would sit in the low lighting and explore our surprises. The surprises were always the best because we weren’t expecting them. One year I received a hand crafted dresser made with paternal hands and still to this day, twenty odd years later, grandchildren are playing with it. It will be handed down to The Elf in time.
At nine o’clock we were allowed to go up to Mam and Dad to wake them. The four of us would pile on their bed (the ‘good’ duvet was white with blue flowers) and excitedly tell them what Santa brought. I always waited for the moment when Dad would pull out a gift for Mam, kiss her and tell her that he loved her or something lovely along those lines.
We’d all be ushered off to put on our Christmas clothes after our ‘sausies’ (known as sausages elsewhere) and all clamber into Dad’s big orange Opel Record and drive down to Mass in the days of no seatbelts or booster seats. We were allowed bring a toy to Mass until we made our communion, then we had to pretend we were listening. I loved the music: little donkey, silent night, hallelujah.
We’d visit our very warm hearted Aunt and cousins who lived nearby after Mass and then go home for dinner. We’d play with our toys in the living room while Mam got the last few bits ready. When dinner came we all (and still do) would light a candle and make a prayer before dinner made its way to the table. We’d fight over Mam’s croquettes, roasties and stuffing. Trifle was for dessert which I never liked so I would have a bowl of cream instead. Yum yum.
We’d all sit around watching a post dinner movie. Mam would have a rest until half seven when we got to watch someone die in Coronation Street. We would go to Nana’s house at night, in these days. These were great nights when all our cousins would be there and the adults would have a few drinks so be all relaxed and cheery. When we were old enough we could sit in on the game of cards which was paid for with coppers. My great aunt (who The Elf was named after) would bring a giant bag full of copper coins for us and the excitement at counting out your winnings at the end of the night was the highlight.
Stephens’ day was more relaxed. We’d get up and play with our toys, watch some great tv (why is Ste’s day tv always better?) and eat our selection boxes for breakfast. We’d have another delicious Christmas dinner and maybe go for a walk. In the older years we’d go up to the Dublin mountains for a walk by the reservoir, if weather permitted. That night we’d go to my aunts house but it would be a quieter night.
The days after the 26th would blend into one another until New Year’s Eve when our relations would come to our house for a big hooley. My brother, cousin and I would all play (marbles, GI joe, wrestling) and the adults would chat and drink. If my girl cousin came the boys would be dumped and we’d play in our ‘apartment’ with our dolls. She would be married to Mark Owen and I would be married to Robbie Williams. At 11pm Mam would make ham sandwiches and tea or minerals for us kids. Then at midnight we’d do the usual round of Auld lang Syne (which I never really liked) and we stayed up late until we couldn’t keep our eyes open.
New Year’s Day would see another big ‘Christmas’ dinner. Then it’d be all over.
When I think about it the Jesus fella didn’t play a huge part in all that made Christmas, Christmas. Despite this, I feel sad that I have preserved the crib my Dad made thirty years ago and yet have not bought any figurines for it. I am sad that my Christian heritage is falling away and I especially feel it at this time of the year.
But then I think that it’s a bit hypocritical that it is just my heritage I want The Elf to know rather than the actual religion. Truth is, she’s too young anyway. She barely grasped the idea of Christmas Eve never mind anything else (aside from the idea that Santy might bring her chocolate).
I look forward to adding to the traditions I grew up with. I look forward to keeping it simple and remembering that it was all the small moments I remember to this day- the pyjamas, the smell, watching out the window, the creak in the stairs, playing with my brother and cousins, tv, lazy days and most importantly of all: relaxed parents just going with the flow.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you so much love and peace this Christmas. Thanks for reading xxx