|Image courtesy of Corbis|
That's that, then. Christmas is over for another year and all that's left to look forward to is an inevitably anti-climatic New Year's Eve and a scary credit card bill.
For a person with a higher than average dose of cynicism, I thoroughly enjoy the festive season and tend to throw myself into the spirit of things around mid-November. This means that, come the day itself, twenty four hours of Christmas just doesn't feel like enough.
Every family has their Christmas traditions and, as such, it leads to a certain amount of mirthful monotony. A comforting continuity that follows year by year. My own family is a case in point. In an attempt to give my Mum a break last year, we decided to go out for Christmas dinner. What followed was a sombre afternoon of wallowing in our own disappointment. The food was rubbish and it had cost everyone a small fortune. The break in tradition had left us all feeling out of sorts and the day never really recovered. This year, the family elected to stick with what they knew and Mum cooked a full-frill feast for sixteen people. Naturally, she complained about the amount of work that went into it but I know she wouldn't have had it any other way. Eventually, every Christmas blurs into one big joyful memory.
Christmas for me started a little differently this year in that I had a hangover. The kind of hangover that leaves you with your held tilted gingerly to one side as 'upright' only ends in one thing. That one thing being vomit. It was also the first of my twenty eight Christmases that I hadn't been with the family in the morning. This year I spent the morning with my husband, my own little family, and we opened our presents, watched the Bude Christmas Swim and ate a fried breakfast together. We then wandered up to Mum's via our local (with rum, a hair of the dog is the only real option), and I think we may have hit on a little bit of perfection.
I've always found that Christmas has its quiet bits. Between present giving and dinner there's usually a strange lull. Everyone's waiting patiently for their turkey and there's never enough sofa to go around, but we missed that part. By the time we arrived, dinner was almost ready and the excitement levels were beginning to build again. It was also one of those Christmases where no one really leaves the dinner table. With wine-a-plenty and the conversation ebbing and flowing between jubilant chit chat and fierce debate, dinner seemed to run right through until the early hours of the morning.
The obligatory Boxing Day buffet ended up being something of a hangover cure all and the wine remained unopened.
And now this. The nothing bit. Most of us are back at work, doing that weird mid-season limbo until the New Year. Work is quiet, the presents are put away and the family are making their way back to their respective homes. It always feels like a very sad time of year to me and the fact that we managed to hit on something like perfection has only made it worse. The hangovers have barely worn off and the run-down feeling is settling in. My throat feels like I've swallowed glass and my stomach hates me more than it has ever hated me before.
I've found myself wondering if maybe I'd be better off ignoring Christmas altogether next year. If there's no day of wonder, then there can be no weeks of misery to follow. There'd be no disappointment and no debt related sleepless nights, but there'd also be none of those perfect moments either. Like the moment that my husband and I danced drunk around our lounge to Slade or having my niece tell me that our gift had been her favourite. Those little things make the PND worth enduring. And I know that, come mid-November next year, the tree will go up and I'll start the whole thing again.
After all, a bit of blues will pass, but the memory of a really good Christmas lasts forever.