Tradition at Christmas – at no other time of year do we fill our lives with so much ritual. Stir-up Sunday, kisses under the mistletoe and twelfth night are some of the more traditional traditions but we all have family traditions too. Watching a certain Christmas film, the date to decorate the tree, what to leave out for Father Christmas! The list is extensive!
But why do we love these rituals so much? It got me thinking about my own Christmas traditions and why they’re so important to me.
My Christmas traditions originate in my childhood. They come from a time when Christmas was as it should be….totally magical.
It’s the 1980s. I’m a small child living an idyllic life. We live in a big house set deep in the Cornish country side. Our garden is wild and vast.
It’s just a few days until Christmas. My father, who often sold Christmas trees at the market, brings in our tree to stand in our slate flagged hallway. The aroma of freshly cut pine fills the air. My mother and I decorate the tree while the cassette tape of ‘Carols from Kings’ plays.
On Christmas Eve we travel to Truro Cathedral for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. Angelic choral music rings out and I sit quietly with butterflies in my tummy. It would soon be time to hang my stocking in anticipation of a visit from Father Christmas.
Christmas Day was always just us three. My mother, an excellent cook, always made a special breakfast ahead of a perfect Christmas lunch. Presents, long country walks, board games in front of an open log fire and a snoozy evening film on the telly completed our day.
The little traditions we had established created a magical Christmas bubble where I felt happy, loved and comforted. I’d come to feel that without them Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas.
I was ten years old when everything changed. Just a few weeks before Christmas, my mother and I came home to find a note on the kitchen table. My father had without warning, moved out. We later learned he’d been having an affair for several years and left us to live with her and her three children.
We had to sell the house. My mother and I had to figure out how to live life without my father. Christmas was no exception. The real tree was replaced with a fake one. Christmas lunches were spent with various friends of my mothers who took pity on us.
My life was drastically different. Many of those treasured traditions that made Christmas magical had disappeared with my fathers departure. I clung to what we had left. The decorating of the tree to choral music, the Christmas books and films I’d always loved.
These traditions are still with me. As an adult and parent I’ve re-introduced those traditions we lost when my father left. Through them I feel closer to those wonderful memories of my happy, carefree childhood and sharing them with my own children brings me no end of pleasure. I hope that when they are grown, they do the same things with their children.
Despite the consumerism and gluttony we all fall victim to, I believe it’s actually our traditions that bring us closer to that Christmas feeling we’re all searching for. My advice, don’t get carried away with an extravagant Christmas. Don’t stuff it full of ‘things’. Look inside yourself and indulge in those moments that make your heart sing. Life is short. Make it happy.