It’s that time of year again

We used to get our Christmas tree (a real one) the Saturday before Christmas, most people did then (in the 70s and 80s). Now this might not be strictly accurate, but this is what I remember. I remember having real trees when we lived in Chester, even after Dad had left. I remember getting them from Proud’s the hardware store further down Christleton Road, a shop that was used frequently in our family history, being the local hardware store for my Nan and Grandad, where they bought their tin baths, dustbins, mops, and buckets of all descriptions along with paraffin and paraffin lamps for the outside toilet. Nan was a regular in their when I was growing up as well as the post office opposite, that doubled as a bit of general store, where she would get the pies and ham on a Saturday morning before our visit.

Back to the Christmas tree, so we would drag the tree through the house put it in a bucket and wedge it in place with half bricks, we would then decorate it with highly flammable tinsel strands that would get everywhere, I have no clue how we managed to retain so much of the stuff each year as it was nearly impossible to remove from the tree after Christmas, we would randomly dangle the silver and gold strands over the branches, it would always concentrate in clumps when I did it, Mum however seemed to have the knack of throwing it at the tree and it spread evenly. We would add an assortment of glass baubles and other assorted plastic, paper and wooden decorations from the Christmas box, every year we would find a casualty of storage, a broken glass bauble or a dinted plastic one, if it wasn’t too dinted though it might find it near the back of the tree. Mum would then add the lights and the long garlands of tinsel.

Next out of the Christmas bag would be the ceiling decorations. In the mid to late 70s Mum had bought these plastic metallic ceiling decorations that hung down from the ceiling and gentle oscillated up and down as the room heated up, they would also catch the light and glimmer as the gently rose up and down. They were a sight to behold, well for the first few days, then the sellotape that was fixing them in place would give way and they would end up on the floor. This would mean they were regularly being picked up and refixed to the ceiling, until we gave up by Boxing Day, but when they were in full oscillation they were a shimmering thing of beauty.

As reminisce about Christmases past the first memory to return is the smell, the smell of the tree of course, but also the smell of those decorations, they had a distinct plastic smell, like cellophane, it is strange, but that plastic smell reminds me of childhood Christmas every time. I then see the tree with all the baubles reflecting the lights of the tree, and the rest of the room, creating little parallel worlds tinted, red, gold, green and blue. In the days leading up to Christmas I would lay on the floor next to the tree looking up at tree, the baubles, and the lights, listening to Mums Perry Como, Christmas Album getting lost in the beauty of it all.

Christmas Day would always start wonderfully with the anticipation of the presents then opening them, then it would always go downhill, especially when Dad was at home, he would take up residence in the front room and drink and smoke all day. I would go upstairs and play with my presents. After Christmas Dinner we would often be banished to the kitchen and play games around the tiny kitchen table and huddled around the Calor Gas fire whilst Dad snored in the front room in the warm. We had a laugh in the Kitchen with Louise’s boyfriend (future ex-husband) keeping us amused, with his Frank Spencer impersonations. Previous Christmases were spent quietly coking on the cigarette smoke in the front room trying to watch the Christmas afternoon film through the smog of smoke and trying to listen of the snoring of Dad. After he had gone I was older and mostly less memorable, we would still play board games and laugh at Ted.

I would imagine most people have mixed feelings about Christmas even if they dare not mention it. There is so much pressure on us all to happy at Christmas that we feel guilty about not completely enjoying it. Last year I could never have written this for fear of my Mum reading it and upsetting her. Such is the cultural importance of Christmas for many of us that it is nearly impossible to be honest about it, especially in hindsight. Obviously Mum had nothing to be upset about, yes they were not perfect, we would sit and freeze in the kitchen, but the room was full of love. It is ok for Christmas or any other time for that matter to go wrong. It is OK to have mixed feelings, indifference, or outright dislike about Christmas.

The pressure of positivity around Christmas is culturally driven by the media to create an idealised version of family. It has nothing to do with the religious message of Christmas. I would even be as bold as to say the religious significance of this festival has practically been airbrushed out of modern Christmas. Christmas is now about eating overpriced rich food, drinking warm spiced alcohol for about a month, culminating in a day of greed and laziness in the company of people you spend very little time with the rest of the year.

Maybe I am being grumpy, but this time of year can often make me feel less than. I want to enjoy it more than I do, pressure for it to be perfect and happy is high, and I generally fall short of what I want to do. The bread I bake is never quite as good as it could be, the dinner I cook is never as nice as it could, the day doesn’t feel quite as magical as it should.

This year is going to be hard, the first one without Mum, and Ben’s first Christmas living away from home. I know I will be sad; I know we will all have tears in our house. It’s not going to be perfect; I am not going to try to make it perfect. My bread will be enough, the dinner will be enough, I will be enough and there will be plenty of love in our house.

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Published by Matt Smith Personal and Professional Coach

Performance and Life Coach

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