You scumbag, you maggot

It’s official. It’s the second of December and advent is upon us. That means we can go crazy with the Christmas music, films, food, and decorations. The kids were so excited about getting their chocolate, and Christmas finally being here, I thought they might explode. It makes me worry how any of us are going to survive the rest of December.

We will be having our Christmas Day early this year, as we have done almost every year since having children, as I’ll be working the whole of Christmas weekend this year. Every other year we’ve just changed the date and not mentioned it, but this year we asked my daughter if she minded having it early. No surprises she was just fine with that. Anything to get her presents early. In fact she’d quite like to have it today please.

I have always been a massive fan of Christmas, like completely obsessed. Not just as a child, but through university and junior doctor years I would be the person manically decorating everything and cranking out the Christmas tunes at top volume. They say that having your own children really brings the magic of Christmas back to you.

Strangely, and almost ashamedly I haven’t really found that. The change started when I was heavily pregnant with my daughter. I found myself completely uninterested in Christmas. I didn’t decorate, didn’t buy any presents, I had absolutely no desire to do anything Christmassy at all. I found that with pretty much everything through that pregnancy, I lost interest in everything else, including my poor husband’s thirtieth birthday!

The Christmas joy didn’t really find me again for the next four years. We kept everything very low key, stayed home, and just had a very quiet time by ourselves. When I was on maternity leave with my son I had the time and I energy to put a little more effort in, and that’s when our advent star and advent library traditions started. That was a really wonderful, magical Christmas.

Last year didn’t really live up to those beautiful memories. Our daughter became completely overwhelmed by the entire thing, and spent the entire day raging, while I spent a fair amount of the day sat on the kitchen floor in tears. My husband slaved to cook us an incredible Christmas dinner, which the kids refused to eat, and me and Hubby were so utterly broken by that point, had kind of lost our appetites too.

I really want this year to be different, but I don’t know how. We are scaling back the cooking plans, and attempting to reduce the number of presents, though I don’t know how successful that will be once everybody else has given theirs. I want to just reduce my expectations of the whole experience, but their expectations are starting to weigh heavily on me, well specifically my daughter’s.

Bedtime last night was a whole barrage of questions; what presents will she get, when will she get to open them, how long will she have to wait, how can she possibly wait three whole weeks, why won’t I let her open them already, why do I never let her do what she wants, why does she always have to wait, why am I so horrible to her…

I hate to admit it but it makes me want to throw all the presents in the bin, or say “fine, just open them.” Then cancel Christmas entirely. However much I try to focus on doing nice things for other people, or spending time together, how Christmas is all about love, well it still seems to just be about chocolate and toys, and to be honest it’s not really making me feel the magic.

So now I sound like a proper Scrooge. However there is one thing I haven’t lost the love for. Christmas songs!!! I love Christmas songs. I love the fact that I only hear them for one month a year, so it feels like a real event. I love all the old favourites, but also some less known about ones too. Sufjan Stevens has recorded five whole Christmas EPs, all of which are fantastic, but the majestic Sister Winter is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard. Joni Mitchell’s River oozes class (something often gloriously lacking in Christmas songs) and Tim Minchin’s White Wine in the Sun never fails to reduce me to tears.  Whilst not strictly Christmas related, I always save Laura Marling’s Goodbye England (covered in snow) for our Christmas playlist, and it is another utterly gorgeous one. The whole of the Tim Wheeler and Emmie the Great Christmas album is a huge hit in our house, but for all you Walking Dead fans, Zombie Christmas is sure to be a winner. I also cannot resist the general misery in Low’s Christmas EP, with Just like Christmas being a notable jingly exception.

Would love to hear everyone’s suggestions of new Christmas songs to try out, and how to survive three weeks of hearing “when can I open my presents??” without losing my mind and every last scrap of goodwill to man, and five year old girls!

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