Thursday, 15 December 2011

And the bells were ringing out for Christmas day....

This morning I spent some time reading stories of peoples memories of Christmas in The Guardian, some were hilarious, some were terribly sad and many hit home on the reasons why Christmas can be both the best and worst of times with friends and family. To that end I thought I would share some of my best, worst, weirdest and funniest Christmas memories with you.

Best: My first married Christmas in 2003.

This year we were living in a wonderful period flat with high ceilings and beams, we had bought our first ever real Christmas tree and we had enough money to really splash out on each other for the first time. I remember being incredibly excited about getting a card with 'Wife' on it for the first time and virtually bursting with impatience to get to Christmas morning. Then the pair of us sitting and unwrapping presents we had so carefully chosen for each other in a few hours of quiet, festive bliss on Christmas morning before the inevitable round of family visits commenced. We still absolutely treasure these quiet few hours on Christmas morning when it's just the two of us being ourselves, undisturbed, with each other (and generally using the time to book holidays for the year ahead these days!).

Worst: Millennium Christmas 1999 

My birthday happens to be New Year's Eve and this was the year I was due to turn 21. Being a Christmas baby means I have very rarely had a big party for my birthday, especially as people generally have plans of their own on NYE - but this year my Mom had arranged a large family get together to celebrate my coming of age and I was REALLY looking forward to it. However, my mother unfortunately developed pneumonia on Boxing day and I had to make a panicked call to her sister to help me get her to hospital, she spent the rest of the festive period in hospital, I actually thought she was going to die and found the whole thing terrifying - I guess it was the first time I realised she was not immortal.

My birthday meal obviously got cancelled (so near and yet so far!) and on my actual birthday I remember visiting her in hospital carrying a small shop bought birthday cake and (weirdly) a small cassette player - at her request. This was so she could play me 'Bright Eyes' which had been 'my song' when I was born and which she had been planning to do so at the ill-feted meal. It was all very surreal and upsetting. I believed (wrongly it transpired) that the silver lining here was that she would give up smoking.

Worse than this, on the evening of the millenium and my hastily rearranged actual birthday 'celebrations' we ended up at a house party of a close friend which got gatecrashed by utter morons causing us to leave it at around 11.50pm and head for one of our group's empty parent's house instead, we missed the crucial countdown and at the moment of the turn of the century we managed to be in an underpass and only realised as we emerged to all the fireworks that we had missed it. We then had to sleep in our clothes to try and keep warm in the freezing, empty house we ended up in. A very weird night indeed.

Funniest memories:

Both of these first two involve my in-laws who I love dearly but who are the polar opposite of my rowdy, liberal, slightly nuts family.

One of the early years of my relationship with my (now) husband, I didn't know his parents too well at this stage but a memory which will stick in my mind forever was his mother having her annual sherry, getting rather merry and then, in the middle of the traditional game of Pictionary, finding something so very amusing that she rolled on the floor and accidentally (and very loudly) broke wind, causing her to laugh even more. I am not sure what was funnier, seeing it happen or watching the utterly mortified expression on her two sons' faces that it had happened at all.

Another Pictionary and In-laws memory was in 2009 when during a particularly competitive boxing day game my team mate (brother in law - he and I were probably the most well oiled too) managed to draw a 'butter knife' in such a way that I proudly and excitedly yelled 'COCK!!' (swearing or anything offensive is decidedly inappropriate under this roof). You know that moment when tumbleweed blows past? Yes, that. Followed by the pair of us laughing so hard nobody could get any sense out of us for a good few minutes. He still has a picture of said butter knife in his phone. This memory still makes me laugh now.

And another funny from 2008 for which I have to thank my wonderful step-sisters and the god of wine for providing entertainment in the form of Singstar on the PS2. Needless to say that we sang, we danced, we laughed, we even created a theme song for Greenthumb Wolverhampton (which none of us could remember the next day despite it's amazingness). All in all it was a lovely, warm, family Christmas day in a year where all of us needed it more than ever.


Christmas day 2009 and I was wearing my brand new and much loved Uggs - which - I found out to my detriment, have no grip whatsoever on ice. At around 10pm at night we stepped out of the in-laws to head home after a long and busy day of celebrations and I literally did a comedy slip (like on a banana skin) and landed on my elbow.

At first the pain did not register through the pinot grigio haze but as my lovely, sober, husband drove home it slowly started to hurt. By the time we got home the bruise was already coming out and I could hardly move my arm, my poor husband had to take us to A&E (where I have my own mug) because he thought I may have broken my elbow. What followed was a highly surreal few hours where we witnessed two sides of a massive street fight admitted in various stages of both injury and drunkeness and realised what an amazing job nurses do on these days of the year when normal rules of society clearly do not apply. It turned out my elbow was not broken just very badly bruised and very tender. We got home at around 3am on Boxing Day and to this day we disagree over whether the alcohol or the ice had more to do with the accident (husband insists I am one of those drink related accident statistics, I disagree).

Heartwarming Christmas Memories:

Many happy Christmas eves spent in The White Hart in Shifnal (the pub we religiously went to at Christmas in our late teens and 20s) singing Fairytale of New York over and over again and swaying in time to the music. Somehow this always felt magical - I am sure it still happens now but the difference is most of our gang now have kids and don't seem to visit the pub on xmas eve anymore!

One year after my parents had seperated (1992?) my innovative mother came up with an idea for how to turn the fact that we were broke into a game - my brother and me were each armed with £20 and the game was who could buy the most for the other sibling for that amount. It made what could have been a pretty bleak xmas into a fun and very family focussed one. I remember that Christmas very fondly.

It wouldn't be Christmas without:

  • A chocolate orange from my Mum. Every year. Since I can remember.
  • My mother and I working as a highly synchronized team in the kitchen to cook and serve Christmas dinner, not even needing to speak to each other to achieve the end result (telepathy rules here) and finding the interference (supposed 'help') a minor irritation which we simply have to work around with gritted teeth.
  • My step-dad's sparkly Christmas waistcoat which makes an apearance, without fail, every Christmas day.
  • Pictionary with the in-laws (on good years providing memories such as those listed above) 
  • My mom being so excited when everyone sits down to open presents that she makes involuntary squeaking noises, like a guinea pig.
  • The sight of my husband's face (like a small, very excited child) when presented with a pile of presents on Christmas morning. Avidly shaking each one in turn and completely focussed on the activity.
  • Our blissful few hours of tranquility and peace on Christmas morning.
  • Baileys, port, part baked bread rolls, a cheese mountain that Alex James would be proud of and a spectacular array of bhaji/samosas/spring rolls.
  • Trying desperately to be home by the time the King George kicks off on boxing day and watching our horses come in (invariably last).
Whatever you are doing people, have a good one. I, for the most part will be trying not to visit hospital this year and also cooking Christmas dinner for the in-laws which is something I have not done for a fair few years. I am looking forward to spending time with the people I love and having a good birthday and woe betide anyone who tries to stop me!