And so it has begun. The season of the carrier bag. Those relentless days where one seems to do little else other than walk in to the house laden with this, that and indeed the lovely other in our efforts to create the Christmas of our dreams.
On the one hand I rather adore what becomes one long shopping opportunity and the other I feel every vein in my body tightening in dreaded anticipation of buying the wrong thing. Of forgetting to buy a little something for someone altogether. Of buying lots and lots of teeny little things I could surely create Christmas without.
Ready then for understatement of the year? I sometimes feel as though the commercialization of Christmas has gone a bit far.
Though I am not quite ready for a true Buy Nothing Christmas, some of me thinks that reigning things in a little bit might go some way to saving our bank accounts, waistlines, sanity and soul. Some of me thinks that if only we could hark back to a time where kids were happy with a tangerine and a handful of copper and grown-ups didn’t see Christmas as one long gin soaked endurance test then the festivities might just be a little easier on all of us…
Oh heck. Am I turning in to Scrooge’s lady friend? Probably not, for I am nothing if not a bundle of contrary emotion when it comes to Christmas. Take yesterday for instance when under the guise of helping her choose a unit for her lovely bathroom, I accompanied Kath to a furniture shop neither of us had previously visited.
And in we went. And with delighted eyes on stalks, and senses so very gently assaulted by quiet festive tunes that were just right and big fat candles emitting the scent of Christmas without rendering our noses outraged, we took mugs of milky coffee from polite men in checked shirts and wandered about in something akin to awe. Here was Christmas made perfect. Cabinets painted in milky colors describing a lifestyle we suddenly found ourselves desperate to step in to. Nothing too festive but on every surface a nod to the season. A tangle of seedpods. An amber scented candle. A pile of Welsh wool blankets. Rooms in which a Christmas without the garish truth of the festivities could be played out. Rooms in which we could hole up, sip hot chocolate laced with red wine (my two favorite things in one cosy bowl, oh heavens yes please!), pretend television didn’t exist and instead spend those precious few days of the holidays talking, and laughing, playing games and eating food cooked exquisitely well: feasts of saddleback ham and red onion marmalade, sloe gin and homemade truffles.
You see I want Christmas but I want a Christmas that doesn’t exhaust me. I want to choose one or two presents for those I love that are just right instead of the endless stuff of carrier bags I tend to offer people. I want to start Christmas the traditional way it has long begun for us with the Christingle service, watching Finn set his hair on fire while holding a candle and singing “Away In a Manger” (one year the Verger sprinted across the aisles to offer a wet flannel to be flung upon Finn’s singed brow!). I want the house twinkly without glitter and baubles. I want an afternoon around Kath’s kitchen table, just me, her and our suddenly teenage babbas exchanging gifts, a quiet Christmas Eve spent wrapping gifts with Ste and Christmas Day at home. Nowhere to be. No people to see. Just the pleasures of the day to be enjoyed without any pressure to entertain.
Though it does of course reek of the lure of commercialization in itself, I want a Christmas like the one in that furniture shop. A mood. An atmosphere. A sense of space in time that had Kath whisper “Oh Ali, I could cry” at which we both burst out laughing and so thoroughly and completely understood.
So much of what is heavenly about Christmas is lost to the very chaos of it and this year I want to experience wonder all over again. While it may be hard to set aside the season of the carrier bag we can at least do our very best to focus on festive hygge, to reign in the relentless urge to throw money at that which cannot be bought and instead to indulge ourselves and those we hold most dear with the kind of joy that the bestest kind of memories are made of.