Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Jumpers. There's a very recent "tradition" (if traditions can be recent) that people seem to feel obligatory. Christmas jumpers are alright on the right person, like your funny Dad or a hipster trying to be ironic but actually being annoyingly cool. But they aren't compulsory, or TRADITION, are they?

Elf on a Shelf. There's another recent tradition. This year it is a big deal. I know this because I see 30+ Facebook posts every morning of what our friends' naughty elves have been upto during the night. There are tonnes of well-circulated articles about whether we should be jumping on the "Americanised" Elfie Shelfie bandwagon, so I'm not going to repeat all the "bad elves encourage bad behaviour" judgements (because I actually think some of them are funny). 

A collection of our lazy elves who just sit on a shelf.

For me, Christmas Traditions are personal, not global and Facebook. They're things that travel through generations of repeated customs that make the end of the year a warm and cosy place to be.

Small Family Syndrome

I'm from a very small family. My Grandparents all died either before me being here, or while I was really young. I'm close to my Mum and Dad (who separated when I was four), I speak to my brother (who lives away, now) and have some family on Facebook, but that's about it. 
We've very rarely spent Christmas in the same room, if ever, and because of this, there aren't any Christmas Traditions that I recall. 

Me, being a total Christmas spanner.

I have fond festive memories that I know happened a few years in a row, but nothing that ran long enough to become "tradition". I wanted to share some of those festive memories and how they impact on my Christmasses now.

For New Babies to See Christmas

As a small child mum would take me into work where we would decorate the maternity ward. It was an annual event; midwifery staff bringing in their families to decorate the ward. I have such vivid memories of the sound of the foiled plastics unpicking themselves from each other, the smell of fusty boxes, reused year after year for storing donated decorations, the feel of scratchy tinsel well passed it's best, the slithers of smashed baubles at the bottom of boxes and the loose glitter specs that would sneakily stick themselves to our cheeks. It was "for new babies to see Christmas".
To this day my Mum's colleagues introduce themselves as "the one who helped you put that star hanging from the ceiling!! Don't you remember??"... Not that I don't. But I can picture, so clearly, some of the tinsel hanging on notice boards and the foiled plastic fold out stars hanging from the polystyrene tiled ceilings. They'd have a festive cassette tape playing somewhere and people would ask if I'd been a good girl or not and we'd eat mince pies.

Me, hoovering my brother's head and all the Christmas tree needles... check out that carpet!
During these decorating parties, I was continually reminded that we were a lucky family who were very loved and were very fortunate despite our small family and "broken home". Because of this, I've always tried to take stock at Christmas time; don't ask for too much, try to realise what I have, notice the difference between want and need. This is a behaviour I want to instill in our little boy; how to be humble. Each year we will all choose a few of his toys and our clothes to donate to charities that benefit children and families.  


The Imp's Eve

As a teenager, my friendship group frequented a local dive called The Lincoln Imp, in Scunthorpe. It's all a bit posher since we were there in the days of legal smoking in pubs and genuine concern at what was making the carpets sticky. 
We'd go to registration at college and by the time we'd all got together and walked to the pub, it would be open for a morning pint. Fosters and Black. Cheesy chips for lunch. Back to college to register for the afternoon, then back to the pub for another Fosters and Black... unless I had Art lessons, then I'd stay at college**. 
At The Imp, we formed friendships, relationships, marriages, break ups; we attended wakes and Christenings of friends and all the gigs of all the bands in the world. We all had our 16th, 17th and 18th birthdays there (legal of course) and would know we'd find a friend in there should we need one.
Needless to say, The Imp wasn't just a second home, it was Our Home and the place where we all did our Growing Up; so of course it would feature in our Christmas traditions each year. At the time, The Imp was packed with budding musicians, artists, graphic designers, greebos, losers and bank managers; anyone and everyone would gather there on Christmas Eve and we'd all have a communal "snog" at midnight (not quite). It was often the best bit of Christmas in my late teens and I remember being snobby about the place when I went to University. What an idiot! Snakebite for 80p a pint? What is there to be snobby about?
A lesson learnt: be kind about your history and the good ol' days. Don't speak bitter of them and raise a glass of Fosters and Black on Christmas Eve while listening to "Gordon Is A Moron" on repeat. 

** I now work as a Technician in that same art department ;)


The Mother of All Godmothers

A Christmas Tradition which seemed to start while I was at University (ie FAR too old for it to start, frankly) was that of my Mum's famous advent calendar.
Having been a midwife for a million years (she probably delivered Jesus), Mum became the Godmother for many of Scunthorpe's children. She really is the best Godmother anyone could ask for, if only for the advent calendar she delivers each year before the start of December.

Mum spends the year traveling the world (literally) in search of small intriguing items to fill the multitudes of advents that she makes each year. That's 24 presents for each godchild/daughter/son/grandson/dog!
The calendars are legendary, if a bit repetitive, but who doesn't want repeated Daim bars, chocolate coins and fridge magnets during the Christmas period?

Now that StanleyPigeon is on the scene (for his second advent calendar) Mr P and I don't get a look in, except for the joy of watching him get extremely excited every morning. He climbs into his chair sits very patiently while we fetch the bag down for him to empty and tear open the morning's surprise. It's the best part of my day and provides a tender moment for us to talk about Nana and what she's got for us today. 
I LOVE my Mum's advent even more now that it's not just for me, but for our whole family. A Proper Christmas Tradition.

Another Modern Gimmick

I've been watching the growth in popularity of Christmas Eve boxes. A Christmas Eve box comprises of many different things to different families, but mainly you'll find: 
  • New pyjamas for each member of the family
  • Hot chocolate
  • A Christmas film on DVD
  • A Christmas book
  • A new tree decoration 
They're another modern Christmas gimmick Mr P reckons, but I think quite the opposite. I think they provide a moment of calm before the merry storm and mark a soft and gentle time for your home to unite during the mayhem of December.

I've said before about Mr P's job being shift work. It means that three of our four Christmases together he has been working on the big day. We can't be guaranteed dinner or tea together from year to year, so the idea of the Christmas Eve box sits really neatly with my plan to develop some proper Pigeon Villa family time and a new Christmas Tradition. 

This year will be my first in hatching the Christmas Eve "box" plan... 
Being a hoarder of vintage suitcases, I'll be using a case from my vast collection as the box. It'll be filled with all of the above and will have a tag with Stanley's name and address on. The case will be delivered to the wrong address each year (silly Santa), meaning it ends up across the road at our neighbours' home (that just happens to house Stanley's little friend, Cody). They're going to bring it over the road and get involved in the big fuss over our Christmas Eve Case, before we get settled into our new jimjams watching a DVD and drinking hot chocolate (and Fosters and Black).
I really hope this custom takes off for us to gain some quality time together. I'll let you know how we get on in the New Year! In the meantime, let me know of any traditions your family uphold and silly pictures of them are a must!

Merry Christmas too you and yours.

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