I can remember one Christmas in particular from my childhood; I found a very large stuffed Humpty Dumpty in my pillow case (there were none of these giant sized embossed red velveteen sacks you get today) that I instantly adored; and an inflatable snowman. I think I was perhaps six or seven years old and I recollect taking my inflated inflatable snowman outside and pelting it with real snowballs (funny how it always snowed at Christmas when you were a child) until it eventually burst.
Of course it is possible I have homogenised at least two Christmases in that memory, and it has to be said, most of my Christmas holidays were spent in York where we stayed with my maternal grandmother who openly disliked me. So perhaps the inflated snowman pelting incident happened when we had returned home in the New Year. However, I digress, because what I do remember is keeping all my presents in my pillow case for several days after the Big Day, so I could delve into it again and again, reliving the excitement of Father Christmas’ visit.
Oh no, my childish enthusiasm didn’t even begin to wain until it was time to go back to school and my mother returned the pillow case to the linen cupboard.
So when did that childish enthusiasm stop?
Now I have my own children, it’s great fun to relive that excitement through their eyes (and yes, they have a giant sized red velveteen embossed sack) but, and I do not think I’m alone in this, when the children have finally gone to bed after a day of present opening, the cold turkey sandwiches consumed and the last of the edible Quality Street snaffled (the penny toffees and coconut ones always end up being the Johnny-no-mates), something just kind of ups-and-goes.
The mess and mayhem of Christmas that nobody noticed that was all part of the build up and fun leading up to the Big Day, suddenly becomes a bit annoying. You find yourself apologising to friends who drop round unexpectedly and see the gravy stains and cranberry splodges on the table cloth that had previously been concealed by the fruit bowl or the After Eights. The last two Christmas crackers that you promised your children they could pull at breakfast time, remain hidden under the sideboard. Even the brightly coloured Christmas candles have melted and morphed into an extra-terrestrial shape reminiscent of a Doctor Who episode (and just why did those people end up in the North Pole?).
What happens to the Christmas spirit and why does it dissipate and fade a bit like the old folk who fall asleep straight after the Queen’s speech?
I put up my hand to confess I stopped watering the no-drop noble fir tree from the dawn of Boxing Day. I cannot deny I did feel a twinge of guilt (and annoyance that I had forked out £62 for the brute and vowed never to repeat the performance, until next year) and the droop in its branches meant the end of the tinsel started to dangle in a neglected post-Christmas flop. The Christmas cards that I dutifully stood up each time they were knocked over like skittles whenever the curtains were opened, now lay like wounded soldiers among their more sturdy upright comrades who were further away from the opening ‘swoosh’ and so stood their ground.
And my desk, still bearing the scars of the Christmas Eve present wrapping panic, in my absence has become the Mary Celeste of Christmas past and is surrounded by rolls of wrapping paper, gift tags, sellotape and scissors and is crying out to be returned to its former role.
I love Christmas, the planned get-togethers, the rekindling of old friendships, a reason to build bridges with people; there is definitely a feeling of hope and optimism, exactly what you would expect the season of good will to foster.
But when Boxing Day dawns, there is a little bit of me that wants everything to return to normal (whatever that is), so perhaps my memory of pelting my inflated inflatable snowman was symbolic of my future sentiment. So maybe it’s time I got rid of the giant sized red velveteen embossed sack and reverted to a pillow case, keeping all my Christmas gifts in there to enjoy for longer.