‘Ssshhhhhhh, you’ll wake mum and Dad’
My sister was born when I was 7 and a half years old – back then that half was very important – so as her big brother it was my duty to induct her in the ways of Christmas.
By then I was old enough to know that Santa enlisted the help of my parents (or maybe he wasn’t actually real!), but still wanted my baby sister to revel in the joys of discovering what presents Santa had left us. So, by the time she was a toddler and able to make it downstairs on her own, the traditional 5am excitement started.
My parents live in an old house, it’s well-kept but retains the squeaky floorboards that I memorised in my youth. Knowing where not to stand meant you could get all the way downstairs and into the living room – where the fireplace was which is obviously how Santa got into our house each year – with nary a sound.
This same knowledge became very useful in my late teenage years, sneaking upstairs after staying out too late… but that’s a different story.
Christmas morning then, sneaking downstairs, avoiding the floorboard in the hallway outside my parents bedroom, the last step of the first flight of stairs and the second bottom stair of the second flight, and for goodness sake don’t step on the loudest squeaky board right in front of the living room door!
Into the living room, the tree twinkling in the bay window, the fireplace decked with decorations, and the milk, shortbread and carrots gone with only an empty glass and some crumbs leftover as evidence they had been eaten by our overnight guests.
More importantly, strewn across the armchairs was those magical presents and stuffed stockings, SANTA HAD BEEN!!!
We usually got an armchair each full of presents from Santa; a personalised stocking full of small toys and sweets, and larger items that didn’t fit all laid out lovingly like a wonderful Christmas display. We must have always been good, we must have watched out and not cried because I don’t remember ever getting any coal … and so it was that with eyes wide we leapt in to explore our bounties, as quietly as we could manage of course.
Those years, with my baby sister so excited, remain wonderful memories. I’d join in with her ohhhh and ahhhhs as she ripped open presents and boxes, marvelling at all the new toys, some of which were just what she wanted, or miraculously matched a set she already loved playing with.
A few hours later, probably still too early, my parents would appear and the excitement would be repeated as the presents were shown to them anew. How wonderful for Santa to know us so well, we’d all agree.
At some point my Dad would suggest breakfast and my sister and I would begrudgingly agree to a glass of milk whilst cramming whatever sweets we could into our mouths. The rest of Christmas morning would be spent in our dressing gowns, opening the presents left under the tree (from Aunts and Uncles), whilst the TV showed a wonderful new animation called The Snowman.
I continue to believe there is a magic to Christmas that is more than just the presents you receive. Today we are bombarded by imagery of what makes a perfect Christmas, what we should buy, what we should eat, how we should spend Christmas Day and how we should feel.
I say do whatever you want to be happy, try and find something that will make you a child again, a way to re-capture the wonderment and magic of Christmas. Or create your own. Don’t buy in to the hype.
Our Christmas wasn’t borne of tradition, there was no plan to how we spent our day. It was whatever we made it, and all I can remember of those days is one thing.