For the last number of Christmas holidays I have arrived at 2nd January, put on my work face, and said to myself, “That’s it, Ken, until 23rd December. Off we go.” And that has indeed been the case for the last number of years. Granted there has been a day off here and there and even a firm plan of a holiday but, apart from that, it’s been go, go, go from January until December.
That’s the main reason I tend to say, “Thank goodness for Christmas,” these days. I get to stop.
All going well, after a few hours of tidying stuff on Monday, I can close the door of the office and be done until 2nd January. In theory, my time will be my own and I can do with it what I wish.
I say, “in theory’.
In practice, Christmas has its own well-worn routine and there is very little deviating from it. Early on Christmas Eve, there’ll be a visit to Anthony the Butcher for turkey and ham vittles. I see Anthony in his shop several times every week and we always put the world to rights before the dealing is done. On Christmas Eve though, it’ll be too hectic for too much chit-chat. There is lots to do. Lot of meaty goodies to dispatch. A few compliments of the season will have to suffice. Last year I won my turkey in Anthony’s raffle and that was the best-tasting goddamn turkey I ever had.
Christmas Eve afternoon becomes about the ham. It has to be cooked up in cider and various other things (top secret) then glazed and baked and… you know the score, you do it too. There’s a visit to a good friend’s house as the darkness deepens and the shops all miraculously close. The return home brings the irony of a house full of food and not a clue what to eat.
Later it’s midnight mass, which is well-over by midnight. I’m not much of a mass-goer anymore but I like the late evening Christmas Eve mass for all kinds of complex reasons, not least the knowledge that I’m probably stealing a prime seat from a regular attendee.
Christmas Day is all gifts and bracing walks and cooking and over-eating and sleeping in front of Strictly and being mildly disappointed with the Christmas Special of something and then, one of my favorites, a long lonesome walk through the deserted town centre. Only the occasional passing car and the occasional similar restless soul for company. This moment is special for me as it is the zenith – the furthest away I can get from work.
Stephen’s Day is visiting and family and board games and best ham competitions and fun.
The day after is visiting and visiting and turkey pie with possibly some chips on the side… ssshhh.
My favourite borrowed moments from the holiday will be a nice easy book to read or a favourite movie revisited on telly or a new one that has been saved-up and finally enjoyed.
Christmas will be different this year and one sometimes feels it should almost not be. But we need to stop and breathe and eat a sweet and shake hands and smile whenever possible, despite everything.
So, roll on Christmas. Let’s do it together and try to make it nice in some small way for someone we meet who might be less fortunate than ourselves. I wish those reading this a happy and a warm one and only good things for the New Year, though I know that’s a bit of a tall order.
To those not reading this, my wish is exactly the same.
Sure, why wouldn’t it be?