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Christmas Day

HandmadeI'm having a lovely Christmas this year. It's the first year since my mum died that I've been able to enjoy Christmas (almost) unreservedly. I nearly went away this year, because I'd been having such a hard time, feeling desperately lonely and bereft, forcing myself to enjoy something that only reminded me of lost childhood happiness. It's not that Christmasses with my mother - especially in the final years of her life - were so great; they were not. They were also characterized by a kind of forced gaiety and what I thought was over-indulgence in both food and gifts, and the burden of preparations fell entirely on me, and it was a strain without a lot of payback. My mother was happy, but I was not. But continuing the traditions was as important to me as it was to her.

Then, after my mum died, I tried to convince myself that I didn't care, that it was only another holiday. But that wasn't true, either. Christmas has always been special, magical. For me, I think Christmas is tied up with my Englishness. My ideal of Christmas is based on remembrances of my early childhood in England, of romanticized versions in books and stories, or Raymond Briggs' Father Christmas and The Snowman and The Jolly Postman and Rumer Godden's The Holly and the Ivy. Even Susan Cooper and Connie Willis have coloured my view of it. It was something I longed for, as I've longed almost all my life to be living in England. It was (English) robins, and little villages with warm lights in the windows and a little church with carol singers singing the old traditional carols. And I had it for much of my childhood, even here in Canada. In my heart, I know this probably doesn't exist even in England any more, and you who live there are probably laughing at my foolishness. But, you know, I read some of your blogs, and it all sounds very familiar, even down to the Queen's speech. And I thought I could continue some of those traditions on my own, but after my mum died, listening to the Queen's speech made me cry. And listening to the lessons and carols from King's College made me cry. And even reading Raymond Briggs made me cry.

But for some reason, this year, I've been able to bring some of those things back into my Christmas. Oh, not the Queen's Speech. Really, I can do without that. But the carols. And the robins. And I've managed (mostly) not to cry. In some ways, it was as if, this year, I gave myself permission not to grieve, or at least to accept that, yes, I was going to feel a little bit sad for a few minutes here and there but that was ok, and it was okay to feel happy the rest of the time. To enjoy those traditions for myself and not for some memory of childhood. And I've almost entirely ignored the hype: I haven't watched TV and have hardly been to the mall. And I cooked a luxurious meal because I wanted to, not because I felt I had to, and invited friends over and we had a lovely evening.

And it was a real, unaffected, unforced pleasure.

And now I have two whole weeks before I have to teach again, and my house is warm and bright and full of good things to eat. And I think I have my Happy Christmas back.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 26th, 2010 07:22 pm (UTC)
That does sound wonderful.
Dec. 26th, 2010 07:42 pm (UTC)
So very glad you had a (mostly) lovely day--I hope this opens the window to regaining the Christmas you loved.
Dec. 26th, 2010 08:09 pm (UTC)
thank you, and yes, I think it does open a window. And now, if I decide to go away another year, it will be because I want to and not because I'm running away. That's a good thing, too.
Dec. 26th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
I am so glad a happy Christmas is coming back for you.

I heard the queen's speech for the first time ever this year... and I do love listening to the lessons and carols; it makes me feel connected to my husband's family in England.

... it was a sad year under the surface for us; we went to my father's for Christmas ... it's not yet a year since my mother died. And we were able to have fun with him and make it be warm and full of family, but there was that sadness on the edges... and my husband's father is ill, so that was on our minds too.... so every little thing (including reading your entry) has been moving me, making me think about our connections and our fragility and about sharing joy.

Dec. 26th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
{{hugs}} I sympathize about the sadness on the edges... but I'm glad there was warmth and family as well.
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
I am glad you got your Christmas back. It was very useful for me to know that while _right now_ I feel like I don't ever want to see anything Christmassy ever again, because it just makes me miss my Mum dreadfully, theres hope ahead.
Dec. 27th, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)
Give yourself time. For me, it will be five years in January since my mum died. In the first year, when I was clearing out things in the basement, I cried for about an hour just looking at Christmas wrapping paper, and many things are still a little bitter-sweet and probably always will be.
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:11 pm (UTC)
<Hugs> back.

Right now I'm kind of baffled that Christmas wasn't cancelled, I mean, what's the point of having Christmas when my Mum isn't around?
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, I totally "get" that feeling. It was maybe not quite so bad for me because my mum died in January, so it was almost a whole year to the first Christmas without her. But it was still terribly hard. Every anniversary like that is. And she was very ill the last Christmas she was alive and went into hospital only about a week later, so this whole time of year is difficult for me. January is especially hard, because there is that anniversary and then a couple of years later I lost a beloved dog on the 10th.

It _does_ get better, though, I can promise.
Dec. 27th, 2010 02:00 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that you found a way to have a Christmas that suited you and that included your favourite seasonal things.

Dec. 27th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
thank you :-)

Edited at 2010-12-27 04:09 pm (UTC)
Jan. 2nd, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Glad you had a good Christmas this year. Time does heal, but I also think you have done a lot of things to help yourself and open your life rather than letting it get smaller. I would add that to your list of accomplishments!

Also, I think the December collage is gorgeous.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )


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