It’s Christmas Eve! I can’t quite believe that the big day is almost upon us. It seemed to be hovering in the distance for such a long time, and now it’s so close I can practically hear those sleigh bells. I think I say the same thing every year!
Christmas preparations are almost done. I don’t have children living at home any more, so it’s not as frantic as it used to be when I had five little ones, all with very high expectations of a perfect day. No pressure there, then! It’s a lot easier, now, with just the husband and the dog to think about. On the other hand, I can’t deny that it’s lost a certain something. I do miss having the kids around most at Christmas. They were noisy, chaotic and very messy, but Christmases with five children at home were also amazing, exciting, and rekindled the joy of the festive season in me every year.
How are your Christmas preparations going? This year, I actually managed to write all my cards and post them or give them out in time. I can’t remember the last time I managed that. The last of the food shopping is being delivered today, and I’ve already had an email to say there are no major substitutions, which for Christmas Eve, is pretty impressive. Even the presents are wrapped, and most of them have already been delivered.
Of course, not everything’s gone according to plan. Two parcels have gone astray. One was delivered to the sorting depot on the 9th December and hasn’t been seen since. Investigations are in progress but I’ve heard nothing so far, and I doubt I will now, this side of January. The other was delivered to some mysterious person at some mysterious address. It was signed for, but no one has come forward to tell me they have it. Again, investigations are in progress…Hmm. I actually ordered the item again, as I couldn’t hang around while the company tried to figure out what had happened, but there has been no sign of that one at all. Can’t say I’m impressed with the delivery company. Amazon, on the other hand, have been brilliant. Everything ordered from them has arrived well on time. There have even been Sunday deliveries! Impressive.
The thing is, whatever’s not here now isn’t going to be here for Christmas, and it’s no use worrying about it. I’m determined not to stress about all this stuff. It’s sad but true that the most wonderful time of the year is also the time when we lose sight of everything that matters, lost in a fog of panic, and a dreadful fear of failure. Today I’m seeing some of my kids and grandchildren, watching my favourite film, It’s a Wonderful Life, and maybe even treating myself to a festive snowball! Christmas is for enjoying, and I intend to do just that. It’s too easy to get caught up in believing you have to have the “perfect” Christmas, and thinking that to achieve that you have to tick off every single thing on your to-do list, when, really, none of it matters at all. I think this poem by Sir John Betjeman sums it up perfectly:
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
‘The church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’.
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.