As a child, growing up in the UK, I always found Christmas to be a magical time of the year. However, when I moved away to live in Australia, somehow the season lost much of its specialness for me.
Sure it was a fun time of year with lots of socialising and sunshine, but it felt as though something was missing. It just didn’t ever feel ‘Christmassy’ to me.
I would try to put this down to a variety of factors – I’d grown out of it…lack of family to share it with…absence of rituals… there were many possible factors.
I even thought that maybe it would change when I had kids of my own – seeing Christmas through their excited eyes – but when they came along, it did make a difference, but it was still not the same.
It is only this year, now that I have returned to the UK that I have once again started to feel the Christmas spirit again.
I think this must be something to do with my DNA – during my formative years, Christmas had a whole load of positive associations and that must be what I subconsciously seek at this time of year.
I know from talking to some of my Aussie friends that this same theory applies to them too – they have been brought up with a Christmas being associated with hot weather, beaches, sunscreen, barbecues, seafood lunches, carols by candlelight and picnics. Very different, but equally defining for them.
For a born-and-bred Australian, I dare say the concept of a cold Christmas would seem very strange.
But for me, I’m now experiencing my first ‘proper’ Christmas for many years …and here are 10 reasons why I’m loving it:
1. Carol singers – the other evening, we heard the distant strains of a carol and assumed it was a neighbour’s over-zealous CD player. But we then realised the music was instead coming from a small group of people, wrapped up against the cold and standing on our doorstep, belting out ‘Away in a manger’ whilst collecting money for charity.
2. Nativity plays – seeing your kids performing in a school nativity play is a wonderful thing. Cute, funny, chaotic, but also a source of boundless pride that is guaranteed to fill you with Christmas cheer (even if today’s plots do seem to have departed a bit from the traditional version).
3. Decorations – wherever you look at the moment, there are decorations, trees and lights. From the spectacular displays in city centres to the smaller scale, more home-spun, local efforts, it is impossible to avoid the visual signs of Christmas all around. Many are breathtakingly beautiful, while some are pretty tacky, but they all contribute to the overall upbeat mood of the season.
4. Kitsch music – previous years have spawned some Christmas classics that continue to serenade the general public many years later in bars, shops, restaurants and other public places. Almost a topic for a separate blog, but amongst those who have reintroduced themselves to me this year are Slade, Wizard, Wham, The Pogues, Band Aid, John Lennon, Chris Rea, Brenda Lee and of course, Bing Crosby.
5. Shopping – yes it can be a bit of a nightmare battling through the actual shops to buy anything (that’s what the internet’s for, isn’t it?), but I do like the extent they go to with their store decorations, shop windows and even their Christmas ads – this year, John Lewis, Debenhams, Asda and Tesco were particularly prominent on the advertising front.
6. Mulled wine – in the lead-up to my first Christmas in Sydney, I threw a drinks party and decided it should involve mince pies and mulled wine. I sweated over a saucepan of red wine and cloves for ages before discovering that most guests would far rather have a cold beer. Somehow hot wine makes more sense on a cold night.
7. Food – I love seafood, but somehow it doesn’t shout out “Christmas lunch” to me. No, I’m more of a turkey with all the trimmings man. Plus Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Plus mince pies. Plus chocolates. Plus about 5 kilos after all that.
8. Weather – hard to fathom for some, especially poms who have always lived here and grumble continually about the weather. But for me, the cold weather, frost, short grey days and long dark nights somehow enhance feelings of Christmas. Plus it lets me get some use out of my wardrobe of new coats.
9. TV – I recently, rather nostalgically, bought a copy of Radio Times to help pick a few TV highlights to watch over Christmas. In the past, Christmas Day might typically involve several hours slumped in front of the Queen’s speech (although in my family, we had to stand for the anthem), some kind of ‘family’ movie and maybe a circus, but with so many channels available now, planning may be a bit harder. As long as I get to watch The Snowman again (complete with intro from a young David Bowie), I’ll be happy though.
10. Family – having spent so many years away from the UK, I’m really looking forward to spending time this year with family members and for my kids to be able to enjoy being part of a larger family gathering too. They say that Christmas is a time for family and I am really grateful to have the opportunity to experience that again after so long.
I hope that some of my reasons for loving Christmas resonate with you too and that you get to enjoy yourself over Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you’re with.
Merry Christmas everyone.