As I’m far from home and much-loved traditions, I wasn’t sure how to feel about Christmas 2012. Although I refused to accept the fallacy that Christmas couldn’t possibly be Christmas without snow (have you seen a map of the world recently?), it still took me a while to get into the spirit of it. A night of enthusiastic chanté nweling which included copious amounts of Christmas ham, followed by a Saturday morning wake-up to a pile of presents and cards all with my name on (thanx peeps!!) got me thinking…
1) Family. I’m from a stereotypically Caribbean family as a Trini friend enlightened me once. I thought she meant in reference to raucously loud get togethers of very loving, proud black people convening for any occasion; Christenings, birthdays, graduations, weddings, or funerals. But according to her, it was having more than 20 first cousins. ‘Have them?’ I can name and tell stories about growing up with them!! When my family get together the food is plentiful, the jokes relentless, and the drinks flow along with the good vibes. We like to have a good time, and given that we’re strewn all over the country, nay the world, we especially like to do it together. Christmas is no exception. Visits, jokes, and Christmas ham. Usually in Birmingham for me, this year in St Lucia. Same principles apply though. You can watch the Queen’s speech, I’ll be watching the dance my lil cousins have made up (or more accurately, trying to keep up with it…) We have our pain, we have our dramas, but when it’s all said and done, family comes first.
2) Being single. While we lose out on Valentine’s Day, the singletons win hands down at Christmas. No buying presents for other people’s relatives. No spending your valuable annual leave with other people’s crazy families. No beef with your other half about where your Christmas dinner will be consumed. No eggshells to walk on once it’s decided. Nope. Christmas is the time of year where predictable is truly delightful. When I can buy for the same small crew of people I always fork out for every December. I must say, being abroad this year has the advantage of huge savings there too! Christmas expenditure this year = skype credit.
3) Gluttony.* Now the Catholics may have labelled this a deadly sin, but even they seem to forget that at Christmas. As a fan of food, there’s nothing quite like the constant feeding that happens when you go from home to home with the fam during Christmas season. A slew of Christmas dinners for a variety of social groups also mean you can eat yourself silly. Christmas is the only time of year where us women are actively encouraged to eat as much as we can. Really, it’s the last outpost in the fight against fattism if you check it.
*Apparently this is culture-specific as I discovered when I started to hog out at a party, and a kind observer mentioned that Christmas over-eating followed by a January diet was not a part of the culture in my new home. Who knew.
1) Work Christmas do’s/cards. When you dislike your job, and/or your colleagues, the thought of spending your precious non-work time with them is a very special punishment. In my job, the real thing was worse than you could imagine. Every year a colleague and I said we would boycott it, and every year we ended up there, and bitched about how sh*t it was afterwards. Ah well. Similarly with Christmas cards, when you work in a large company, how do you ‘just’ give them to the 30 people you like out of the 200 people who work there? It’s just awkward…
2) Christmas injuries. With all the drinking and new electrics people cavort with during the Christmas season it’s no surprise that it’s a most dangerous time of the year. 80,000 need hospital treatment every year according to the NHS. (Although whether they’ll get it next year is another question if Cameron has his way. Sign the petition if you’re not feeling his ‘reforms’) I personally have lost half a tooth fighting with my brother over a remote one Christmas (although to be fair to be him, it was my sister who caused the injury in the end: typical youngest child, always gotta be involved) and an ankle which plays up to this day because I turned up for Christmas another year limping and mum thought I was ‘exaggerating’ and therefore actively discouraged me from going to the doctor’s. I later had a course of physiotherapy on that ankle. With the longness involved in going to the doctors when there’s no public transport, Christmas injuries are more like to be nagging injuries later on in life. Which brings me onto my next point.
3) No public transport. Growing up with literally 5 modes of public transport (seriously: train, tube, bus, tram, boat) the need to learn to drive was barely palpable until my late 20s i.e. this year. It would surface every time I went on holiday, and then disappear after I’d seen the price of driving lessons a few weeks after my return. This Christmas, without a week ensconced in the house with my nearest and dearest to keep me entertained, I’ll be out and about everyday except the 25th and public transport will be atrocious I’m quite sure. Especially since it’s dodgy at night anyway round here.
Now in the interests of space (I’m sure you’d rather be pouring scouring the fridge for Christmas ham rather than reading this…unless you’ve settled down with a mince pie and some mulled wine of course) I kept this to three points for each.
But actually, I didn’t even get to list loads of time off work without taking much annual leave as a plus. Along with Christmas spirit because people you don’t know wish you well, just cos it’s that time of year. Despite the freezing cold everyone’s just that bit nicer in London around Christmas. In the Caribbean, people who are usually friendly become properly convivial and life becomes a full blown social whirl!
And how could I forget mulled wine? I was a latecomer to this, but the delight of warm spicy fruity wine has to be tasted to believed. In the Caribbean heat of my current abode, it’s unnecessary but there’s truly nothing better on a wintry London night. Plus here we have Sorrel, an equally tasty fruity flower mixed with cinnamon, cloves and a shot of rum.
Plus, wherever I am, thankfully, there always seems to be Christmas ham.
And presents! How did I forget receiving a selection of well-chosen books, CDs, and DVDs from people who know what sort of stuff you’d appreciate and have possibly roamed your Amazon wishlist for ideas…
Christmas is fab! Despite the Queen’s annual reminder of the inequalities built into the fabric of British public life, the cold, the freezing, freezing cold, and the crappy Christmas telly (and the COLD), there’s still the Strictly final, and the Christmas film is usually half decent, and then there’s Christmas breakfast; hard dough bread with Christmas ham, sprinkled with hot pepper sauce. Predictable but a great way to start Christmas morning. Although this year I’m looking forward to a Christmas BBQ…Whatever you eat, may you do so in vast quantities, and with people who enjoy your company!
Merry Christmas to you!!