And Merry Christmas of course! I do admit though that I love Christmas Eve as much as Christmas Day. I suspect it is residual nostalgia from my childhood days – the expectation, the excitement, the impatient and glorious waiting. I remember several Christmas Eves as a little one where my excitement at the prospect of Christmas morning and a knitted stocking full of treasures was so strong I was convinced I heard Santa’s bells in the dead of the night, or that I saw the sleigh high up among the silvery stars.
What are your most cherished Christmas memories – from childhood or as an adult? Some of the things that linger within my mind are:
The scent of a real Christmas tree. I’ve already written about my girlhood envy of family members with real spruce in their homes when I had to ‘settle’ for 1970s plastic, and to this day the scent of fresh pine makes me feel relaxed and happy.
The sight of any Christmas tree. Real or faux, I do confess I love the sight of any Christmas tree, draped with tiny lights and reflective baubles. A Christmas tree with an angel or a star tilting over from the very top; a Christmas tree that tinkles with little bells whenever someone brushes past its branches.
Christmas carols at church or in the town hall. I grew up on a farm and every Christmas we would celebrate with carols. Sometimes at the local church, but oftentimes at the town hall – it was a symbol of religious egalitarianism in a neutral, non-religeous setting. I have fond memories of home-baked cakes and scones and slices, softdrink and balloons and running amongst trees and bushes outside with a throng of other children.
Christmas Eve breakfasts. This is more a grown-up tradition. I love beginning the Christmas festival with a Christmas Eve breakfast with special friends. Last year I hosted it on my patio: it was a warm summer morning that promised a hot day. I served champagne and peaches and cold chicken wings and the table was festooned with baby pink roses. This morning my husband and I had a happy Christmas Eve breakfast out at a cafe where we watched others going about their Christmas Eve rituals – fathers with little children buying flowers from the street corner; healthy-looking couples with tanned legs walking dogs; women dashing into the local butcher shop; families and friends chatting on the footpath, holding newspapers and bags of fruit.
Boxing Day with my cousins. When I was young my favourite cousins ever would visit us on Boxing Day. They consisted of a family of four girls and drove over to the country from Melbourne. My younger sister and I were captivated by their urbane city life; they were fascinated by our life on a farm, with views of dams and creeks and dusty roads and wheatfields, far away from cinemas and shopping malls. But when we were all still young the opposites did not matter and the day was filled with exploring and hiding and eating sausages and Christmas pudding.
Christmas Eve with my father’s cousins. My Dad’s cousin and her husband were more like a second set of parents to my sister and I. They adored us and we adored them and Christmas Eve was exceptionally special with them. Theirs was the house with the real Christmas tree, and the coloured lights in the shape of oval pinecones, and the champagne in delicate crystal. The delicious canapes and the dining table already set with polished silverware and creamy linen for a grand Christmas lunch the next day.
Christmas morning with my family. Waking up super early as a child, then as a teenager waking up considerably later. I remember a couple of times not waking up in bed at home at all, but being driven home in the early hours after an all night party with school friends, dropping into bed for a few hours before Christmas officially began. But regardless of the hour I rose, Christmas morning with my parents and my younger sister has always been a cherished ritual. Familiar and comfortable amid a shared and genuine excitement over the unwrapping of presents and the emptying of Christmas stockings. I was very lucky because Santa continued to bestow my stocking with all manner of little trinkets for a very long time, even into my early adulthood.
Something my Dad always says. I have always loved this: Not one to shy from awful or useless presents my father has always maintained that he would hate a Christmas without any presents at all. He loves unwrapping gifts that have been especially selected for him by the people who love him. He never cares what the present is, or if it is appropriate or relevant or particularly useful. He just loves the token of it, the symbolism of it – that someone has gone to the trouble of picking this item out of a medley of other items, carefully wrapping it, placing it under a tree, then excitedly giving it to him on Christmas day.
And for some more Christmas tingles here is a little story I spotted in The Age about the beautiful rituals erecting a Christmas tree.
*Top images via Apartment Therapy.