Christmas in a Foreign Land

Christmas is looming fast. I’ve gone through the motions, the tree is up, most of the presents are nestling under it. I will sally forth to the shops tomorrow to track down a turkey and the required trimmings, which I am told by my youngest MUST include Yorkshire puddings. I keep waiting for the spirit of Christmas to make an appearance but I have so far not felt it at all, not even a twinge and I think it is because some of my Christmas traditions are missing.

Growing up in Surrey in the UK meant that Christmas Day was always on the chilly side if not downright freezing. My parents would get up and drag out the torturous wait by lighting the fire and making coffee until finally calling my brother and I downstairs to set about our pillow cases stuffed with toys, books and the like. Then we would have a cooked breakfast, followed later by a trip to the local pub where we were allowed, as it was a special occasion, to enter the adults arena so long as we were inconspicuous and sat drinking our bottle of coca cola quietly. It certainly was an improvement on hanging around outside the door, prey to the friendly local sex offender who would throw some revolting comment at you on his the way to the lav. So we felt very privileged. Then back home for Christmas dinner, a spot of TV or a game then off to bed regretfully saying goodnight and goodbye to another Christmas.

Things didn’t really alter that much as I  grew older, I swapped the bottle of coke for a glass of wine and was allowed to stand at the bar with my parents and their friends. Fast forward to adulthood and having children of my own. There isn’t anything to beat seeing a small child’s wonder at Christmas. Behind every family Christmas however, there is a woman (usually, sorry to any men out there who do this) frantically swimming against the tide of equally frantic shoppers, tracking down the elusive must-have toy of the year, making endless lists that get longer every time she looks at them and juggling writing dozens of cards, wrapping presents, remembering to get a gift for the schoolteacher, preparing a feast which has to be perfect, in her mind anyway and trying to control every aspect of the whole affair so that it will be a lovely Christmas for her family. This exhausting routine was certainly part of my Christmas tradition. Later on as the children grew up our Christmas altered somewhat but although visiting a pub wasn’t part of it, the rest stayed pretty much the same.

3 years ago we moved to Perth. Every Christmas since we’ve been here, until now, we have had visitors from the UK. This year our regular house guest is putting off his much welcomed visit until January so it will just the 4 of us this time. I started buying gifts early in the year and ordered much of it online, thank you Amazon! I’m very relaxed about getting the food because I know that when I go to the shops tomorrow though it may be a bit busier than usual, I will still be able to park my car and I won’t sit in a huge traffic jam trying to get there. Any gift buying I have had to do I have done on a weekday and if it weren’t for the Christmas decorations in the shopping malls you wouldn’t even know it was that time of year. I haven’t just heard Slade or Roy Wood on the radio for the twentieth time today. I don’t have anything against either of them but I must admit to enjoying them more for having had a substantial break from them both. And it’s hot. I don’t need to wear my coat to the shops only to then have to carry it around all day because the shops are all so overheated.

So, back to my lack of Christmas spirit. I don’t mean the goodwill to all men thing, I  feel that most of the time anyway, apart from people who kill innocents who were minding their own business buying their morning coffee or idiots shooting down a plane full of no doubt lovely people who were happily living their own lives and have been robbed of it. I mean that elusive spark of excitement about the whole thing. I realise now that the crap part of christmas, the sitting on the M25 or trying to get over Staines bloody bridge any time after the end of October, the queues in the shops, the cold mornings, the back ache from carrying your haul back to the car and then wrapping all of it, it’s all part of it. All of the work to get to that moment when it all comes together, or doesn’t as is often the case, is just part of the experience. The things that I was desperate to see the back of are now the things that I realise are an integral part of the whole shebang.

Himself is 50 and I am just about clinging on to 47 so we are a bit old to change our ways. However, I think it is time to forge some new traditions. Better ones. I’m sure we won’t ever shake off the fact that Christmas should be cold but we are here to stay so we must embrace it. I can certainly embrace the difference in getting everything together which is so much easier here, I can certainly embrace our walk on the beach after breakfast with our beloved hound wishing all the lovely, friendly people who frequent Peasholm dog beach a “Merry Christmas” and I can embrace sitting by the pool with a glass of bubbles while the turkey roasts in the oven. That’s one tradition we won’t change. Christmas isn’t Christmas without the family around the table, whatever form that family might take.

Merry Christmas to you all wherever you are.

About

Sally Edmonds lives in Perth, WA. She is married with 2 children and is an artist.