I’d say that Christmas Day has always been, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite day of the year.
When I was little, I’d be so excited to wake up and see if Father Christmas had been that I would barely sleep. In the very early hours of the morning, my eyes would ping open and I’d sneak across the landing into my brother’s bedroom to shake him awake.
Then together, him in his Spiderman PJs and me in my My Little Pony ones, both with oversized Christmas-themed slippers, we would tip-toe down the stairs to see if he’d been.
I didn’t realise it then but I realise it now more than ever how lucky we were. We’d go down into the living room and under the Christmas tree would be two or three sacks each, full to the brim with presents.
The rule was that we’d have to wake Mum and Dad up when we were opening them, I guess they wanted to be there to see our little faces brimming with delight over what they’d bought. I was fully aware that 2am was not an acceptable time to wake anybody up but there was no chance in hell I was going back to sleep.
So I’d do what any other mischievous little kid would do and would make my way around the house standing on the kitchen worktop, tiptoeing to reach the mantelpiece and using chairs as a step ladder to change all of the clocks in the house forward to a more suitable hour. It was totally worth the telling off I’d get when they’d realise what I’d done.
Dazed and confused my parents would fumble their way to the kettle, make a much needed coffee, crawl into the living room and plonk themselves on an arm rest, eyes barely open but smiles wide.
We’d have the television on in the background with Christmas cartoons on while we savagely ripped off the wrapping paper and squealing like little piglets.
COTTON-HEADED NINNY MUGGINS
No matter how old you are, Christmas is just as much about the build-up as it is the day itself.
In school we’d make Christmas cards, read stories, sing carols and dress up as adorable angels in the Christmas nativity play. We’d spend weeks flicking through the pages of an Argos catalogue and folding the pages and circling the things we wanted.
Christmas Day, at least in my house, was less about Jesus and more about two things: family time and presents.
I never did get that Tiny Tears and Timmy doll or life-size, battery-powered Barbie Jeep, but my favourite presents over the years were things like bicycles with baskets, roller skates, disco hoppers, pogo sticks, dolls houses and board games.
Greg would get electric train sets, books on dinosaurs and remote control cars. We’d play together for hours on end before sitting down to a family meal, pulling crackers, telling stories , eating every chocolate off the tree and stuffing our faces with turkey, roast potatoes and chipolatas.
As the years went on and I was in my teenage years and twenties, my favourite presents became things like my green cape by Cacharel, my tan leather Russel & Bromley brogues, a case full of YSL make up and my signature Stella McCartney perfume.
I’d swapped the fun stuff for material possessions, but I never did relinquish my childlike love for the celebrations. So when friends started going to the pub on Christmas Eve , destroying their Christmas morning with a hangover, I would still tucked up in bed in my Christmas PJs by 9pm.
THE TRUE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS
Over the past few years, our family has started ambling our way towards a more conscious Christmas.
I guess it’s down to a consumerism overload and maybe it’s age, maybe it’s the lack of young children in the house or maybe it’s the fact we’re all starting to be more and more aware.
The bombardment of pre-Christmas marketing that starts as early as summer, the chaos of Black Friday and the ‘beat the John Lewis Christmas advert’ competition are more sickening than a festive trifle. So every year we’re starting to give more and more real meaning to it all.
We’re now putting more effort into things like cooking the Christmas dinner together or going for a frosty winter walk with our adopted guide dog and these days, we don’t even think about opening presents until the evening.
My favourite presents in recent years have been simple and costed no more than a tenner; they’re sentimental and ridiculously thoughtful.
Like the RSPCB book on types of birds my Grandma got me for my woodland walks, or my Portuguese port sippers from Mum and Dad which oxidise my tawny port and make it even tawnier, then my book called “Advanced Style” which showcases a load of fantastically whacky old women like Iris Apfel strutting their wrinkly stuff on the streets of New York in their zany outfits, embracing youth and loving life more than life itself.
But presents aside my absolute favourite thing about Christmas is the laughter and the memories made.
Last year was probably one of the best in years. I gave Mum a break and gave up my annual, leisurely Christmas bath to cook my first ever Christmas dinner. We strapped a Velcro helmet to my poor ninety-seven year old Grandma’s head and threw balls at it as she balanced dangerously next to the Christmas tree with her walking stick, laughing her head off.
We played Secret Santa and made each other homemade gifts, we played board games for hours, had scrabble wars, told funny stories and Mum continued her annual tradition of reading out ‘The Pork Pie & The Injured Pigeon’ (it’s a long story).
That night we all sat around grazing on crackers, cheese and chutneys nodding our heads in agreement that it was quite possibly the best Christmas yet.
I’m on some sort of upward trajectory towards goodness and I’ve been making changes to every aspect of my life along the way. So this year I’m having the ultimate Conscious Christmas.
No presents, no Christmas pub crawls or sparkly dresses, no Christmas films or Scrabble wars, no pulling crackers or eating chocolates off the tree. I won’t even have anybody to give me a Christmas hug.
I’m flipping the whole thing on its head by boycotting it altogether – it
will be radically different to what I’ve always known, but it feels completely right. This year I’m East, in Mandalay and about to start a 10 day vipassana retreat.
Ten days of silence, introspection and meditation; ending this year and starting the new one with a continued quest for the true source of happiness – inner peace.
Before setting off to the northern hills, I spent my morning at Kuthodaw Pagoda, watching the sunrise. I wanted to be somewhere new and beautiful to watch the world wake up, to remind me of the valuable lessons I’ve learned this year.
It’s a reminder that every day we are born again and what we do today is what matters most. It’s a reminder of how my ‘good stuff’ morning routines are what shape my mindset and therefore what shape my day. It’s a reminder that life is beautiful.
And this year, instead of wishing you all a Merry Christmas, I’ll say Namaste ~ may the divine in me, bow to the divine in you. (or something like that)