How many of you get wound up, stressed out and overwhelmed around the Christmas period?
Do you realise you are so busy you actually don’t really get into the Christmas spirit. Are you worried about dirty windows (mine show up the dirt with winter sun) or changing beds, washing down the skirting boards . Do you get drained writing so many cards, wrapping endless presents and it’s all a chore as opposed to a happy ritual . Do the kids leave a mess just when you had everything perfect.
Get the picture? Well I’m guilty the stress going back years ago but not so much that I didn’t adore Christmas. We all have our Christmas memories that will keep up warm for many Christmases to come.
My first was believing I heard Santa on the roof as a small child and my big brother Paul calling me to say Santa had been. Would you believe he had to give me a jokey back down stairs as I didn’t want to get out of my cosy bed!!! No central heating then and I am very cold creature! I remember getting a dolls house one year and weeks later finding wall paper and carpet in a drawer. Daddy had made my dolls house! I remember comparing presents with my cousin and she always had better than me. But then her Dad owned a toy shop! But without question the best memories were those of the preparation leading up to Christmas.
Our house was a very busy one as our parents kept boarders and Mammy did dinners for people from the shoe factory. There could be six in our dining room and then we had Nora, a special lady who used to mind us too, Molly, Mr Lacy, Con Mulvin and many others. Christmas began with the making of the puddings and boy she made loads! There were puddings for her sisters and neighbours always included. The pudding mix would be left in a huge plastic basin with a cotton tea towel over it on the bench in the kitchen for everyone who came through the house to stir and make a Christmas wish. I remember the fab aroma of cinnamon, lemons, and brandy from it. On a Sunday afternoon when all was cleared away after dinner, Mammy and Daddy would sit at the kitchen table with two cups of tea and the old biscuit tin with Christmas cards would come out. Cards sent to them over the years were kept so they would remember to send one back. The old address book was out and we would spend the afternoon writing all the cards.
Sunday before Christmas was the day for putting up the tree. That was Daddy’s job and he was an expert! The Riordans and Wanderly Wagon would be the TV and he would slowly peel the lights from the rolled up newspaper (he carefully rolled the lights onto rolled up newspaper every year so they didn’t tangle and it worked) and place them carefully on the tree stopping to move away and check his work before proceeding. We had the nicest decorations in the Town as far as I was concerned. Daddy went to Dublin on business every Friday for years and the decorations were collected when he saw anything a little special. We had lights that looked like candles on the tree. The Tree was always fresh, the shedding kind (we would be hovering up needles at Easter!) and massive.
We had high ceilings and the Tree always just left enough room for the Silver Star that adorned the top. There were garlands around the fir place, mistletoe hanging from the central light that many a kiss was enjoyed under, and the cards were placed on ribbon along the wall. The very special brass candle stick for the front window that was lit to welcome Mary and Joseph on Christmas Eve was left ready and holly was placed over all the pictures on Christmas Eve. Daddy made our crib but the ceramic crib pieces were bought and loved for many years. There was straw in the crib and baby Jesus appeared as if by miracle on Christmas Day. My brother Michael still uses the same crib and brass candle stick in our home place to this day.
Oh to the smell of Christmas as the Ham is cooked in cloves and cider Christmas Eve and the visitors would sit in the kitchen as Mammy cooked drinking whiskey. The post man, milk man and anyone who called was offered a snip of whiskey.
No discussion about drink driving then. My Dad bought his six sisters in law (one lived in England) a potted plant every year so it was his job to deliver those. The dining room table was set and the beautiful log centre piece that Daddy made with pieces of Christmas tree and cotton wool took pride of place in the centre of the table. The best New Bridge Cutlery was taken out of its box and the best China out of the glass case. The linen table cloths and napkins were brought out and the table was laid. We only used the dining room for family occasions so it was a great treat. Christmas Day, Daddy always gets up early to light the fire and switch on the lights so it was beautiful when we came to see what Santa brought. Daddy used to fold all the Christmas paper so it could be used again. Don’t recall it ever been used again however! We would have a fry including a piece of Christmas ham before we would all head to Mass in our new style! After Mass we visited neighbours and aunts for a Christmas drink and Mammy would be preparing dinner. What a feast. Christmas crackers and the big ritual of lighting the Christmas pudding will forever stay happily in my memory box and also the special gifts Daddy bought for Mammy.
One year it was an amazing ken wood mixer , that Mammy used for years later but admitting on Christmas morning she couldn’t deny showing a little annoyance as she felt household appliances were necessities (that she would happily save up for) not Christmas gifts until in the bowl of the mixer was a velvet box with a piece of jewellery ! He was an expert at surprises. I remember as we got older getting a three in one stereo that was the highlight of Christmas as Perry Como’s Christmas would blast from it. Movies, snoozes and a lap tea followed and the occasional Christmas sing song. I can say that I was truly blessed to have had such a wonderful family and a happy home. My siblings would often argue that I have a selective memory and thugs were not always perfect but now as an adult I believe that would be fairly normal and I’m grateful for my memories big time.
I’m sure my beloved Mother got stressed out but it seems she was an expert hiding it from us. As a mother myself I know I had ore Christmas blues as I worried about money and time. Bring self employed I worked very hard before Christmas so getting everything done was a challenge while minding two small children. Making sure Santa presents were bought and the house lived up to the memories of my own home from years past. But one very lucky thing I enjoy is my husband is the cook on our home! How fantastic! My job is ambience! My friends say my job is flowers and lighting candles.
Well, I don’t make any apologies for having an amazing loving husband! I can safely say I have lapped up every Christmas except the year my dear cousin died suddenly on Christmas Eve. He was the same age as me and was planning to marry his childhood sweetheart, who was my dear friend. That Christmas was heart breaking as we are all a very close family but yet despite the heartbreak was the overwhelming feeling of unconditional love among all of us as we comforted each other through the sadness. Also the year my Dad passed away a month before Christmas. But again all twenty four of us spent Christmas in our home and it was magical as we felt our parent’s presence among us. And when I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time just before Christmas, all my siblings and their families came to spend Christmas with us. Another wonderful memory.
Stress or Dress? I choose a dress. A beautiful festive red or perhaps black with some sparkling jewellery and a glass of bubbles and nibbles and watching friends come up to our home after mass on Christmas morning that amazing feeling of overwhelming gratitude for Christmases past and present I’m a very lucky lady . May all who read this have the most loving joyful Christmas, cobwebs, dusty skirting boards, untidy kitchen, and all!! Choose the dress not the stress.