This time last year I was away from home, beginning what would become a massive stint of house sitting. As part of my initiation it was necessary to pull the Christmas decorations out of the cupboard and dust them off for another festive season. Disturbingly, although I lived alone, I found myself coming home to visit my family, in a house filled with many more people than mine, and seeing no Christmas tree, no lights, and no ' festive effort' in general really. It wasn't particularly my problem, so I left my family to their own devices, quietly confident that someone would crack under the pressure of the season, and fix the entire situation. But Christmas family lunch rolled round with no decorations. Christmas a humbug family? Surely you don't mean that!
What I've noticed this year though, is that it's not just my family. I've visited heaps of friends and relations houses and found basically the same situation. Once their youngest children are grown up, people don't seem to bother with getting into the festivities anymore - a suspicion I confirmed when I was at work today and the Christmas tunes were blaring, the gingerbread was baking, and the younger kids were wide-eyed and ecstatic about what was to come.
Which leads me to question - do we only do Christmas for the kids? Call me selfish if you will, but I refuse! The whole house is out tonight, either working or visiting, so I devised a cunning plan that I have just successfully completed, which I hereby dub 'Operation Ebenezer'. While dinner was baking in the oven, I threw on the Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack, and set Christmas off myself! I've pulled out our trusty Coles tree from the classic 1998 range, and decorated it with lights and festive bric-a-brac, and the process has been like opeing up a time capsule. Here is the choir boy I made in Grade 3, hand drawn face looking like Mr Bean, and a dress made out of a Woman's Weekly with hundreds of pages folded. Here is the box of decorations that my brothers and I covered in Scholastic Book Club Stickers about 10 years ago. Here's the bell my teacher gave me on my last day as a reminder of my time in high school. Here's the expensive broken bauble that's been hidden at the bottom of the box so that mum and dad don't get angry.
Here, is Christmas.
In a wonderful book I am yet to completely read and return to its owner, The Shadow of The Wind, a boy has a harsh argument with his father, and is later presented with his birthday present - a rare and beautiful pen. After refusing to accept the gift his father passes it back to him and says "presents are made for the pleasure of the one who gives them, not on the merits of those who receive them". In the same way, when I hear people complain about how busy they are at this time of year, I can't help but wonder what Christmas really means to them. Every moment of work involved in making this holiday happen, should be borne out of love, no matter how many times Christmas has occurred before. From decorating the tree, to buying and wrapping presents or cooking a roast dinner, Christmas is about finding joy in the details, even if you're the only one who does it.
So here's hoping that even if your family has slipped out of the spirit, you'll find the energy to resurrect the holiday and make it memorable, even if you're the only one who does.