Ever family has their own unique Christmas traditions but to you they are as natural as everybody else’s are wrong, wrong, WRONG. After almost twenty years in the same house and twenty five years in our small town my parents are moving. Next year I’ll be married (officially a grown up, eek) and the family home will be somewhere else. Things will be different. So let me give you a flavour of Christmas, January style…
The one where I banned Father Christmas
I don’t remember this, but my Mum always delights in telling me the story of how when I was four and how, when the concept of Father Christmas was explained to me, I was incensed. ‘I don’t want that strange man coming in my room when I’m sleeping.’ The more Mum tried to explain the crosser I got. In the end, I wrote Father Christmas a note saying that much as I would like the presents, he was not allowed in the house and had to leave all presents outside.
The one where we learnt about the mystical adult affliction, the hangover
Christmas at my grandparents was made even more exciting by the presence of the caravan in the back garden. We begged and pleading to be allowed to sleep in there. And because Big Sis was notoriously unsteady, I was given the position of power and allowed to sleep in the top bunk. In the morning, we were had to wait until Uncle J (ten years younger than mum and only 24 which seemed really old to us at the time) was up before opening our presents. We asked at 6am, we asked at 7am, we asked at 8am. Why was he sleeping so late? But finally at 9am we were given permission to go into Uncle J’s room and wake him up. We piled in avoiding looking at the naked page 3 girls he had pinned on his wall and jumped on his bed until he raised his head blearily from the pillows. ‘What’s wrong with him, is he sick?’ I asked my Mum. ‘Sort of,’ she said with an enigmatic smile. ‘He’s got a hangover.’ It took many years to find out what that meant.
The one where we videoed it.
Aah Family Xmas, a video immortalising the January family in time. My Lil Sis, the snotmonster, who kept trying to embrace my dad not realising there was a very fragile camera in the way. My dad, rarely seen but ever present in the ‘artistic’ camera shots (down the toilet, check) and giving directions to the main players. Mum, exhausted but radiant, my Big Sis all NHS specs and wonky fringe and me, a little madame even then. The backstory goes like this. Both me and my sister were obsessed with Jem, an alter-egoed singer with bright pink hair and magic flashing star earrings. All we wanted for Christmas was a Jem doll. My mum bought one for my sister and got my aunty to buy me the same doll. Only one problem, we weren’t seeing my aunty until Boxing day.
Close up on my Big sis opening a present, revealing a doll. ‘Look a pony’ she says brandishing it. My face crumples, I jump to my feet. ‘I wanted that.’ Big sis clutches the doll to her (non-existent) chest. ‘It’s mine.’ Me: screams, cries, has epic temper tantrum. Here the video thankfully cuts away. I showed HWSNBN the video and he still wants to marry me.
The one where I received my most memorable present
This could have been the dolls house given to me and my Big Sis from both sets of grandparents. Or the My Little Pony stable also shared with Big Sis (grrrr). But my most memorable present was… a toilet. Now Big Sis has many good qualities: she’s artistic, she’s kind, she’s the most generous person I know, but she cannot keep a secret to save her life. I was at home and my Big Sis came running into the room, flushed from shopping, my Dad behind her. ‘Rowan, I bought you…’ My Dad moves toward her trying to stop her but I know he’ll be too late. ‘a toilet’ she finishes truimphantly. In the run up to Christmas I felt each present suspiciously. There was nothing obviously toilet shaped, maybe it had been a elaborate bluff on on Big Sis’s part. But no, when I opened my presents, there was a toilet for a dolls house.
The one where the Grinch, moi, almost spoiled Christmas
Christmas at my cousins in Bexhill on sea. I, at six, am the second eldest and responsible for bossing my cousins around and making up games. My uncle A disappears for a suspiciously long time. Then Father Christmas emerges, big fluffy beard, sack slung over one shoulder. ‘HO HO HO, Merry Christmas children. I’m Father Christmas.’ Then a little voice pipes up: ‘No you’re not. It’s Uncle A. He’s just got a silly beard on.’ Cue adult shushing me and being taken aside and told not to spoil it for the rest of them.
The greatest Christmas movie ever!
Yanno the one with the monkey brains and the child sacrifices? A quick poll of my fb buddies revealed a long list of favourite Christmas films: It’s a Wonderful Life, Wallace and Gromit, Santa Clause the movie, Die Hard, Gremlins, Muppet Christmas Carol, Elf and The Sound of Music (?). I’m torn between the Snowman, which I adore but always make me sob and Home Alone which reduces me to peels of laughter at the pratfalls, also Kevin is so similar to Lil Sis. But the movie that is burnt into my brain and will always say Christmas to me is: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Stick with me, faithful readers. It’s Boxing day, I’m at my grandparents, I’m six maybe seven and I’m literally hiding behind the sofa. Because a possessed Indiana Jones is trying to kill Shorty. I was freaked out by the eyeballs but by the time we got to the sacrifice scene, I was petrified. Because isn’t that what Christmas is about, blind terror?
The one where my Big Sis keeps a certain Christmas traditon, namely gluttony, alive
One Christmas, Mum told me Father Christmas had a bit too much sherry and put all the sweets in Big Sis’s stocking. Sadly by the time they woke up to right this injustice Big Sis, with a cunning that belied her years, had eaten all the sweets. But my favourite Big Sis story was when we went to Bluebeckers with my Aunty P, Uncle R and their kids. Now Bluebeckers were famous for their amazing sundaes. With many different ice creams, topped with cream, syrup and sprinkles kids came far and wide to guzzle the E numbers. When we got home, Big Sis had a massive tummy ache. My Mum was worried thinking she would have to take her to hospital. Until Aunty P revealed that Big Sis had eaten her sundae, and the remains of mine and Lil Sis’s sundaes too.
The one were we failed to prevent a boy invasion
Ever year we went to the M’s Christmas Eve party held at my friend Deb’s parents house. It gave the adults a chance to talk about boring things and get roaringly drunk. While we lurked in Deb’s bedroom upstairs and tried to prevent the boys from breaking in. We were at that stage when boys were a)gross and b)the enemy. I don’t know how it started but as Greg and the boys were our mortal enemies and we had to prevent them from breaking into Deb’s room at all cost. But one year they did and we stood there staring at each other. By the next year the impasse was broken and we were united with our common purpose, trying to get as far away from our families as possible. We went carolling. Sadly many people seemed immune to the delights of a group of spotty teenages squarking through carols. Until my friend Lianne came up with a cunning plan and muscled her way to the front of us clad in reindeer ears, coat strategically unbuttoned to reveal a low cut top. Unsurprisingly the very tipsy Surrey fathers gave us lots of donations in return for a chance to perve at Lianne. Result.
The drunken ones at the Lamb
I grew up. Christmas lost, some, but not all of its magic. But as I entered the stormy waters of adolescent me and my friends became obsessed with one thing: getting into pubs. But we lived in a small town with pubs that knew all it’s adolescents wanted was to get in pubs and was therefore very hot on IDs especially around Christmas. Hence the Christmas eve traditional carnage at the Lamb was born. The Lamb was not hot on IDs, so ever year we ended up there drinking until our heads span and stumbling home in the early hours. Because I’m embarassed myself enough, it’s time to humiliate some other people, two of my best friends Greggers and Ros.
There are many stories I could tell you about drunkGreg (is there any other kind) : the time he showed my Mum, who has known him since he was five, his underpants and insisted she touch them. ‘Go on, touch them. Calvin Klein.’ But my favourite DrunkGreg story involves midnight mass. In those early years we would drink, then go to Midnight Mass at my friends fathers church and stand swaying full of Christmas spirit. DrunkGreg, wanted to stand during the service and sit during the hymns despite me pulling him up or down. But when he started trying to light a cigarette, I grabbed him and took him outside. When everybody pilled out of the church ten minutes later they found DrunkGreg, sat jauntily on a headstone offering a bottle of value vodka to all the little old ladies. As my mum left the church, DrunkGreg waved the bottle of vodka at her so enthusiastically he fell off to headstone. Heh
My fave drunkRos story involves the time Debs gave a series of beautifully wrapped extremely thoughtful presents; including a hamper for her cats. DrunkRos got, well, drunk. So drunk that she put Britney Spears Toxic on the jukebox six times in a row. Good times. So drunk that when we were trying to persuade her to get a taxi she ran off like a weird drunken goblin. On her way home DrunkRos got hungry, so she sat by the side the A3 and open her presents. And lo and behold there was a some yummy maltesers. Except, these were in fact cat treats. Heh.
The one with the snow
In my first year at University we went away to this amazing house by a Loch in Scotland. Little Sis and my parents were fighting all the time. Which explains why I found myself down by the side of the Loch with wet hair at 9am in the morning. The early morning bit was unusual, the wet hair not so much. Much to my Mum’s displeasure, and cries of ‘you’ll catch your death’, I have always believed life is too short to dry ones hair. It was cold by the lock that my hair froze in tendrils around my head, like Medusa. This lasted until I got back to the house and my Mum saw me and vigorously attacked me with a towel. Even better on our last day it snowed, blanketing the hills in a carpet of white. Proper snow, perfect.
So there you are. A couple of my favourite Christmas memories. I’d love to hear yours, so leave them in the comments. I hope that wherever you are today, you are with the people you love. Merry Christmas lovelies xxx