Friday, 21 December 2018

Christmas - a personal perspective

Christmas thankfully comes once a year. Some people love it, others loathe it whilst people like me wonder what all the fuss is about, but with Christmas 2018 fast approaching, here's my take on it.

The fact that Christmas comes as close as makes no odds to the Winter Solstice means that whether or not you're of a religious persuasion, it forms a welcome festival of light at what is the darkest and dreariest time of the year.

For many it's a welcome break from work, although the 10 day shutdown between Christmas and New Year is a relatively modern idea and, of course, does not apply to everyone in the workplace. For people employed in hospitals, the emergency services, transportation and broadcasting, Christmas is just another day although this is probably not a bad way of looking at the festival.

There's this absurd fantasy that everyone should have a perfect Christmas, which of course is complete and utter b*ll*cks. If you believe the adverts, every home must have a new sofa in time for Christmas and just for luck a new dining room suite as well. Then there's the meal itself, with a whole host of so-called "Celebrity Chefs", weighing in with advice as to how to cook that perfect Christmas dinner.

It's also supposed to snow at Christmas - at least it should according to all the cards and the majority of Christmas themed films. Of course this rarely happens and we're far more likely to see snow in February, or even March (as it did this year), than we are in December; although we did see heavy snow during that month, in both 2009 and 2010.

So Christmas is just another day when all is said and done, and yet so much fuss is made over it. People get wound up and stressed out as there is so much pressure to get everything right. They spend far too much money on presents, many of them rubbish and soon to be discarded, and all too often find themselves in debt which they can ill afford to pay back.

Our son works in retail and the festive season is the busiest time of the year in the calendar for people employed in that sector. He is not permitted to take any leave during the run up to Christmas and gets precious little time off during the period between Christmas and New Year. This makes it extremely difficult for us to go away as a family during the festive season.

It's this commercialism that I really dislike as the whole meaning of Christmas, which after all is a religious festival, has totally been lost. I am not a religious person, but I'd be happy to go along with some of the things which are associated with the Christian festival. As a child I enjoyed singing carols at school and of course I enjoyed the build-up to Christmas.

There was a time when I planned out what I considered would be my perfect Christmas, and it would be as traditional one as possible. It would even snow -  unlikely I know, given what I've written above, but I do remember heavy snow on Boxing Day 1962 - which was the start of one of the coldest winters on record that of 1962-63. 

The family and I would go and gather chestnuts in the weeks leading up to Christmas, We would cut down sprigs of holly and make a holly wreath. The log burner would be lit, there would be the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on the radio on Christmas Eve, with the lights turned down low and the candles lit. We would have a traditional Christmas tree and a few tasteful decorations, whilst the dinner would be roast turkey with all the trimmings.

We would attend a Carol Service preferably in Tonbridge's 12th Century parish church. Alternatively, the imposing chapel of Tonbridge School, would make a suitable setting for such a concert. Going to a performance of Handel's Messiah, would also help to set the scene for this imaginary "traditional" Christmas.

Alternatively I would take the family somewhere really cold for a proper traditional Christmas abroad. Somewhere like Austria, Bavaria or even Norway would fit the bill. It would definitely be cold and there would be tons of snow; not the wet slushy stuff we get in the UK , but nice, soft, dry and powdery snow. There will, of course, be food and drink appropriate to the location.

The trouble is, like most businesses, my company is very busy in the run-up to the festive season, and the same applies to other members of my immediate family. What with shopping and present buying (even if it is limited), this all means there is little time to actually enjoy the good bits of Christmas, and coming back to reality what I have outlined above is a total fantasy.

If truth be known I will be glad when it's all over, but to end on a high note I want to emphasise we do make a bit of an effort in the Bailey household to have a decent Christmas. So come the day, there will be a traditional roast turkey dinner on the table, with Christmas pudding, mince pies with brandy sauce to follow. Drink-wise  there will be Fuller's 1845 to go with the dinner, and then whatever takes my fancy afterwards. I may even crack open the bottle of Port which Mrs PBT's bought me two years ago.

We don't go over-board on presents, as there's not a lot any of us really need; although it is nice to have something special. For me it's either a book, or something good to drink, but I do know that this year, son Matthew has bought me a splitting maul (a straight-handled axe, with a heavy, wedge-shaped head). This means that come Boxing Day, I will be out in the garden, splitting logs - a good way to work off some of the Christmas excess, providing the weather remains dry!

So whatever you're planning for Christmas, and whatever way you celebrate the festive season, may your glass never run dry and, as the song says, may your days be merry and bright.


Matt said...

I've stocked up on 1845 for Christmas too. Have a good one!

retiredmartin said...

I enjoyed this post a lot, Paul. Always find your personal stories some of my favourite across the blogs ! Have a great Christmas, your family deserve a peaceful one.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks Matt. You too have a good Christmas.

Btw. our local Sainsbury's is selling 1845 at £1.75 a bottle.

Paul Bailey said...

Thanks, Martin. Wishing a great Christmas too for you and your family.

I gather you were celebrating a birthday yesterday, so belated birthday greetings. Was there a special pub, or a significant GBG "tick" involved or, like me, did you just treat it as another day?

Not sure yet, what my plans are for Norfolk, as I'm still waiting for family members to decide exactly what they want to do, but I will be visiting my father some time before the New Year.

It might be rather late in the day to arrange a meet-up, but if our respective schedules allow, it would be good. I will let you know if something looks feasible from my side.

Best wishes. Paul

Russtovich said...

You express a lot of the sentiment I think many of us feel (especially at our age). This is our first Christmas in a few years without being with family (either here or there) or the stress of impending surgery which dampens the festivities somewhat. We are alone for the holiday period which is kind of nice. We're making an effort to visit the neighbours (two done so far) but otherwise we will be holed up at home with nibblies, drinks and Netflix. :)

A belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


Paul Bailey said...

A Happy New Year to you too, Russ. Sounds nice, just the two of you, bunkered down at home together, especially if you've got plenty to eat and drink.

There's just been the three of us here, which has been nice. The weather's been unseasonably mild, but we lit the log-burner yesterday evening, just to enhance the Christmas feel.

We're looking at a drive to the coast tomorrow. I expect we'll find a pub, either there or somewhere on the journey.

Enjoy the rest of the festive break. Paul