The Longest Day
The Longest Day
The run up to Christmas Day has inevitably changed for me over the years and I guess there a quite a few factors involved. If I set aside my loathing of the commercial, tinsel-laiden falseness of it all I still come to the seeming imbalance of the actual period of time.
As a child I both hated and loved Christmas. How? Well, it all comes down to the longing that most children experience at that time. The days and weeks spent longing for the day to arrive. The sleeplessness on Christmas Eve as I pursued sleep in vain, knowing that if I could only enter the land of nod, Father Christmas would do his stuff.
I said I both hated and loved the time, and here was another example of the inequality of anticipation and the all too brief exaltation of that waking moment on Christmas Morning. The previous night had for me been the usual. Once my drunken and violent father was snoring I could return to my world of fantasy and strain my ears for the sound of sleigh bells.
If you have ever read Under Milk Wood, you may have noticed that the morning in Llareggub is much longer than the afternoon. Well, my Christmas Day was quite the opposite. The Morning had little in it really. Surprising, considering all I was anticipating. My mother must have gone without on many occasions in order to fill my sack full of toys. And full it was. I know now that it was her, even though she never confessed. She had to have known that I was aware of the domestic tension, strife and sporadic violence. I think the presents were a desperate way of trying to redress the wrongs I (and she) suffered.
Yet Christmas Morning was all too brief. I had become bored with my toys by lunchtime and prowled the kitchen pestering my parents as they got on with the Christmas Dinner. It was probably the only thing they ever did together without fighting. The Queens Speech done, we all sat around the telly and drifted aimlessly through the afternoon. I was bored… bored, bored BLOODY BORED ! Yet I never went out or went off to amuse myself elsewhere. No, the hypnotic beams of the little black and white telly held me (well, all of us) even though the fare on offer was crap. We’d have watched a documentary on the sex life of the Amazonian Tree Frog (if there is one) if it had come on.
Tea time on Christmas Day always confused me as a child. We ate at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. My father only being able to quaff four or five pints and being comparatively sober actually graced us with his presence for the meal. Both he and my mother nodded off and left my sister and I to stare blankly at the flicking images on show. As if some cloister bell tolled, they rose at around 5pm and began stacking enough sandwiches to feed an army. The tradition of a snack tea had to be observed for them; despite a huge meal having finished just an hour before. And to compound my gathering depression the tv began spewing out endless holiday bargains and shop sales starting the day after Boxing Day.
It was only after I got married many years later that I began to sort out Christmas in my head. Even the relatively calm and family orientated Christmas Days spent with my future wife’s family ended with a dreary inertia around the television. At least Boxing Day was transformed. My wife’s family always went somewhere for a good long walk. It felt good after serving twenty four hours in a festive lock-up.
Now I have it sorted. I rise early on Christmas Morning, but no longer to rip open presents and experience an all too brief flare of joy. These days I drift around the house, preparing the now delayed (6pm at least) Christmas Dinner and enjoying the peace and calm of the morning. I like to think about others and in my heart wish them genuine peace and happiness. I send presents to the local Salvation Army, who visit families on Christmas Morning who have little or nothing and distribute presents. That matters to me because those presents are sent with genuine love and compassion. I want them to mean something. I also get a real pleasure from knowing they will never know who sent them or why. That is for me only. Just so long as the gifts make a small difference. Christmas Evening sees me doing whatever I choose to do, which seldom involves the goggle box. I even watch Dr Who on another day.
Christmas Day for me is a day of healing my heart and making amends. It is a deeply personal journey and a spiritual one at that. I never utter that glib statement ‘All the best’ to others. If I do wish someone well, I use the same greetings and I use them all year round. I don’t get post-Christmas let downs now. The day IS special and I wish well to those that want to turn it into ‘The Big Day’ (I hate that phrase…”are you all ready for the big day?”) as is the popular term. Me? I take my philosophical, semi-spiritual iron and smooth the day out so I can cope with the outcome.