Saturday, 8 August 2015

In which I finally get around to posting about our unusual Christmas

I’ve reached the point in life where I’m realising, if not always practicing, that to truly live & enjoy life to the fullest means making the best of what we have, even when it’s less than ideal. That was an attitude that I really had to bring to the table for Christmas 2014, because my new job required that I be in the office for Christmas Day & Boxing Day.

Of course there was a lot to be thankful for – a job in a field that I enjoy, a place of our own, family nearby, double-time-and-a-half pay... but that doesn’t quite compensate for having to work on one of the biggest days of Christian celebration, a day which our Church says should be “free from servile labour”, and a day where I wanted to be at home in my pjs, enjoying Christmas magic through the eyes of my children. I view it is a sign of my being a grownup with responsibilities that I managed to not complain about working on the holiday, on all holidays, much...aside from one or two meltdowns to David.
I was not the only one who had a meltdown, although clearly I deserve to suffer for making this one suffer by taking away her Christmas snacks
There were some minor Christmas miracles which helped. Yes, I did have to be in the office on Christmas Day AND Boxing Day. But I got Christmas Eve off and my Christmas Day hours were at least early enough that I was home before 4pm, which meant I still got a good chunk of Christmas afternoon & evening. And our children are still too little to know about dates. So I did the only logical thing I could do, which was to combine our Christmas Eve & Christmas Day traditions onto the 24th, and to spend the 25th in the manner of the Boxing Days I remember as a kid (ie presents from Grandparents & visiting around plates of snacks).



I’d like to sugar coat it, but a lot of things this year did feel a bit off. It was weird opening presents on Christmas Eve morning. But we still managed to have a lot of fun. David & the children really outdid themselves with my present, sending me on a treasure hunt through the house, where clues led to more clues (and chocolate bears!) and the whole needed to be assembled to create the map that led to my present’s location (a beautiful Anne of Green Gables necklace). The kids were really engaged in their presents this year, with Annie enjoying all the treats in her stocking and Walter enthusiastically tearing into his train & train station packages.




We followed our usual routine of stockings, followed by Christmas breakfast (this year waffles & peameal bacon), followed by baby naps, followed by big presents. And then it was time to revert to our normal Christmas Eve routine – Mass, a dinner I didn’t have to cook, and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol.


What to do when you don't have Christmas stockings or a mantle
Christmas Mass is often bittersweet for me, as I’ve spent most of my Catholic Christmases either away from my parents or away from my husband. This year’s seemed mostly like a tragic comedy, which was really frustrating as I had hoped for a nice family Mass. Although we got to the church 15 minutes early (which, with toddlers, is basically like arriving an hour early when it comes to keeping them entertained) the only place to sit was in the hall, with no view of the Mass (just bad audio). And a lot of the parents could not be bothered at all to keep control of their children, so we had a really hard time convincing our guys that now was not the time to run races around the hall with the other children. I was really cross.

We returned home to one near disaster, namely that after 5 years (1/6th of my life!) abroad I was so used to British customs (pubs open!) that it didn’t occur to me on any meaningful level that Canadian eateries would close ridiculously early on Christmas Eve. By the time I had gotten the children to bed it looked like we would be going without dinner, as our usual pizza place was closed and the others were looking unlikely. Fortunately David is a trooper and found number after number for me to call until we finally found a Little Caesar’s open & willing to deliver. We kicked back with pizza, wings, and a delicious bottle of wine that our landlords had given us for Christmas. Evening salvaged thanks to St Anthony & my husband!

On Christmas Day I took myself to the office, where I sulked at my computer until inspired to put on the Vatican’s Youtube Channel and listen to the Christmas Mass. I followed this with the Festival of Lessons & Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, and I confess that I may have shed a few tears behind the wall of my monitors in a sorrow for the life we have been forced to leave. Christmas is an emotional time. But at least my company sprang for lunch, and everyone was in a relatively jolly mood because we were all going home to families & fun once the work was over, and in my case my parents were picking me up after work and we were going to my house for Christmas Part II.

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Baby Jesus
This was the first Christmas Day in six years that I’ve spent with my family. My mum outdid herself with presents, so much so that she started making excuses for herself, and we all had a cozy evening enjoying our gifts, eating appies & sweets, and basking in the Christmas glow. David was particularly excited to find out that he was getting his long-desired stereo speakers as a gift from all of us. It was a really lovely end to the day, even if it was a really unusual Christmas.