It’s the Simple Things that Matter the Most
When I see the frenetic last minute shopping dashes, watch Nigella, Jamie and co. argue the toss over perfect roast potatoes and the correct height of table centrepieces; when I witness my friends lovingly decorate their window panes with snowflakes and fairy lights, and read about that woman who buys her children 300 Christmas presents (so shocking a sight – click on this link to see for yourself – that they almost shroud the tree), I just laugh.
And then laugh some more.
You see, I used to be a little bit of that. No, not quite indulging the family in a Mount Everest of goodies, but I did used to be (in as much as a day-dreamy Pollyanna ever can be), a Christmas perfectionist. At least by my standards.
The mince pies just had to be homemade. The amount spent on the children just had to tot up equally to the exact penny per child… as did the number of presents they each had to be opened – aka. totally unnecessary stress. We just had to have an exciting array of cheeses waiting eagerly to be gobbled in the fridge. And we also just had to adhere to an incredibly strict present opening routine (ask my Mother-in-law and Sister-in-law whose eyebrows reached new heights several Christmas Days ago when they dared to interject laden with their gifts).
Oh no. In this house the game was:
Santa presents first; one child at a time, everybody watching. Presents from grandparents…? OK, maybe just before lunch but never ever before Santa presents, heaven forbid – and again, most definitely opened one at a time and not in tandem.
Because, well, gratitude!
And any presents from anybody else (Aunts, second cousins twice removed and all the rest), were a 100% after Christmas Pud affair.
And then two years ago, we had an 8 hour Christmas Day power cut.
You know… the kind that strikes half an hour after you’ve popped the turkey in the oven at 12pm… and doesn’t relent until approximately 8pm.
Christmas as we knew it was officially over.
You see, we live in Spain; a country where from time to time, power cuts happen… and when they do, well, it can take slightly longer than in some countries to get it back again.
So what did we do?
What can you do when you have a power cut on Christmas Day?
We swore, we were ratty and grumpy. We swore some more. For one day (and one day only) we wished we hadn’t been so stupid as to leave our suddenly “beloved UK” for a slightly more exotic lifestyle.
And then we swore again, interspersed with some heavy pacing and tough decisions as to whether to start devouring the Twiglets or Mini Cheddars… and finally just opening the Gin and resigning ourselves to the fact that there was nobody else about on our urbanisation (they’d all had the good sense to bugger off to family and let them do the cooking instead) so who in the Electricity Co’s right mind was going to care about a random family of 4 and their shivers, lack of sparkly tree lights, rattling stomachs and no access to good Crimbo telly?
(*NB. All expletives were completely out of earshot of the children, of course…)
Next I announced our predicament to Facebook.
Naturally, as one does when one needs to sensationalise one’s current life situation. Sympathies flew in from all corners of the globe, of course, as well as just down the road, where friends offered to take us in, feed and water us.
But you knew that really, secretly, they were hoping we’d decline… because let’s face it: who in all seriousness has enough extras at the dinner table to feed another 4 mouths… not to mention the spare chairs and the threat of the sudden guests wanting to watch something different on TV (or shock horror, no TV at all), or the increasing possibility of them devouring the Port AND the remnants of the Quality Streets tin?
Besides, lovely as their Samaritan-esque offers were, three hours into our predicament, when we realised the turkey would have to be binned, the idea of going to somebody else’s cosy hygge-like home for the day… only to have to come back to our own freezing house in the evening and sing carols by candlelight as we huddled together like penguins, well, it didn’t really appeal.
May as well stay Cold Turkey.
And then we stopped being Victor Meldrews (unusual for me to have even started, I know… but a power cut… on Christmas Day of all days!!!) and we watched our children. Now, it has to be said, luckily they were at the age where their imaginations knew no limits; the age where battery operated games hadn’t invaded their innocent lives, the age where tablets and iPads and Minecraft were alien words. The age where playing in cardboard boxes was more fascinating than anything that had been gifted inside them.
They were smiling. They were laughing. They were playing. They were having fun!
All of which meant they were making us look really pathetic.
And so we had another drink and opened the tin of Roses and said:
“Well, at least we have dry food – and alcohol – definitely the alcohol.”
And from thereon in our moans morphed to appreciation. It is only now when I look back on it that I realise the pattern that was to evolve. For the next five hours, we did nothing but look on the bright side of our scenario, relishing in the things we DID have. And because we did it conversationally, I don’t just believe, but I know, the power that kind of vibe emitted into the Universe.
Which meant things had to change for the better.
My husband even felt inspired to draw some power cables on my son’s brand new Etch a Sketch. And what do you know? Approximately 10 minutes later, the lights blinked on, the fridge freezer made a heavenly purring noise and the heater illuminated its switch the most gorgeously Christmas red I have ever seen.
How we cheered!
Forget the kind of pandmonium at a football match. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve witnessed a family whose Christmas Day was a dark, cold, shivery, hungry, bored with board games-fuelled mess, reunited with power. The noise and excitement is something else.
And so at 8pm, as the children crashed out on the sofa from sugar overload, my husband and I sat and ate the edible parts of our Christmas Day lunch – ie. everything minus the turkey. As we sipped at our wine, we realised, not only was this one of the most amazing meals we had ever savoured (and savour it we did) but that power cut had also now granted us “date night”.
This is why any and every time I catch that snow flurry of Christmas “Must Do’s” mulling like wine in my mind, I laugh them off immediately and think back to that Christmas past. And I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.
Christmas isn’t about perfection. Christmas is quite simply about being together and having a good time (just preferably not wearing your duvet like a sausage roll).