Posted by: Valerie | December 24, 2010

Considering Christmas

I tried to wrap the cat but he wouldn't cooperate.

It is Christmas Eve – 4.15 pm as I start writing this. The dragon has begun to regurgitate the sun, but in spite of that, we are already on the rim of darkness. The presents are wrapped, the mince pies are made, the turkey is quietly brining in a huge stock pot and Joe is doing that European thing about wanting to open his presents on Christmas Eve.  It’s all very pretty with the lights on my home-made “tree” created of boughs cut from the yard but it’s really quiet.

I have been trying to remember – no, recapture – that intense anticipation of Christmas as a child. Remembering is of course inexact, filtered as it is by the experiences of years, and however true the memory, it is not the same as recapturing, is it? Sometimes I think I almost get it. It seems to be right at the very edge of memory.   Almost I can re-experience the incredible excitement of hanging up our stockings (actually our school socks which Mum had sewn loops onto) on the mantle after Dad had pounded in the nails. I remember being actually breathless with the anticipation of the coming Day! I knew that when we woke up next morning, as long as it was no earlier than 7.00 am, my brother and I were allowed to scurry downstairs in our slippers and dressing-gowns to collect our Santa loot. We were absolutely forbidden to touch our wrapped presents which in our family were already sorted onto separate chairs. Then there was the torture of breakfast to be endured – eaten and washed up too before we would get to rip and tear our way through all the bulky or knobbly wrapped parcels. Yes, I do remember getting something that I desperately wanted. Pure joy! I also remember getting down to the final package which looked so interesting and being bitterly disappointed when I found it contained three padded coat hangers from an ancient aunt. What was worse was that I was forced to write her a polite thank-you letter.

Now I am going to jump to Christmasses in England when my kids were small. Now I’m on the other side of the process. Christmas Eve means making shortbread, listening to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge. The opening processional with a single boy’s voice singing “Once in Royal David’s City” always makes me drop a salty tear into the batter. Then after the children are in bed, settling down to attempt the King Williams School Christmas quiz, published in the Guardian (otherwise affectionately known as The Grauniad due to its plethora of typos). The quiz is fiendishly difficult and is set as a Christmas project for eleven-year-old schoolboys. If I can get two or three answers right I am doing pretty well. Try it for yourself, dear readers, at  . Good luck. Let me know if you get any answers. By the way, no internet is allowed!

Back to the present. Christmas Eve is wearing on and the Norad site shows that the old bloke with the reindeers will arrive in the Falkland Islands in approximately 30 minutes. I recently discovered that the jolly Santa Claus we all know was actually an invention of the Coca Cola Company in the 1930s. Before that it was Father Christmas, St. Nicholas or Kris Kringle or other European entities.

I was very happy that they showed my favourite Christmas movie on TV last night. It is the old black and white version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim. What a magnificent actor he was.

Joe and I have exchanged one present each and the rest will wait until tomorrow after breakfast is consumed  and washed up (some traditions hold firm)!

So until next time I will wish everyone a lovely Christmas with a photo of this pretty little double-sided Victorian Christmas card that I found somewhere some time ago.

Lovely, isn't it?


  1. Great post as usual–but the link doesn’t work to the quiz. I am lucky to celebrate the day intead of the Eve. The children (too old for that surely in their 30’s) go to the inlaws for the Eve and I get them for the day. The English way.
    It is hard to get in the spirit when the sun shines and it is 70 degrees in the afternoon. We will however put on a fire just for the show of it!!
    Happy Christmas ,Val and Joe.

    • Thanks for the heads-up, Pauline. The link is fixed. Have an excellent Christmas, all, and don’t work too hard!

  2. Valerie: Simply delightful. You write with finesse. A joy to read. A gift.
    Your blogs just keep on giving.

    • Thank you so much, Betty. I’m so glad you enjoy them. I don’t plan them at all – just start the flow of consciousness thing and then edit out a lot of the drivel. The drivel may end up being recycled into a future blog! And then there is the racier stuff but I can’t really write that – my kids might read it!

      • Val, I have to call you on that last statement.
        It is a parent’s duty to embarrass their children as they grow to think they know everything. So, I encourage you to include the “racier stuff’ and then sit back, smiling wickedly, as your kids cry out in shock, “MOTHER!!!”


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