In November I was worried about Christmas future. I couldn’t really afford a Christmas tree, nor did I have any idea of how I would manhandle one into my first floor flat, and it was just going to be different. There was going to be no Santa sack, by design rather than accident this time. The divorce would be all but finalised.
It took me a little while to realise that different doesn’t have to mean bad. Different is just, well different.
My first new experience was decorating for Christmas. My brothers living in Brighton, or having a small baby if they lived nearer, didn’t seem the obvious choice to offer assistance with my obtaining of a Christmas tree. With that in mind, I asked a friend to help me buy it.
This year, I determined, I shall have a reasonable size tree. It should not dominate the living room and it should be one that is shorter than me, at 5 foot 1. It should be real but also practical, and should not require a tree surgeon to extract it from the house come January.
And so of course, I purchased a tree that is at least a foot taller than me, with a star topper that almost touches the ceiling, a la Elf…and I still have no idea how I’m going to get it back out of the house.
Everything being different, I couldn’t quite bring myself to put up ‘our’ decorations, but thanks to the parental ‘have a good Christmas’ gift I bought new decorations with which to adorn the tree in red, gold and green. Not so much has changed however, and I continued to merrily and garishly cover the tree with tinsel, beads, baubles and coloured lights. And I love it. Christmas Future and the joy of advent and the coming of Christmas has kept it’s sparkle.
As I picked out the Christmas tree I announced to Jo, ‘this is Chris’. Completely baffled she asked what I meant, and I accidentally began a new tradition – naming the tree. Throughout our ministrations his name evolved to ‘Chris-Trevor the Christmas Tree’, causing my littler friends to ask their parents what they would be naming their tree. Next year I am thinking of ‘Nick-Noel’, akin to DIY SOS with a Christmassy theme.
Over the past two and a half years I have realised how my family has extended rather than shrunk, despite the divorce. It includes my friends, the ones of Christmas Present in particular. So this year, in a departure from the norm, I am spending Christmas Eve evening with said friends, who are really like family. I am joining the traditional Christmas Eve barbecue – no the instigator is not Australian – and not spending it with my family as I usually would. I have had small misgivings, pangs of guilt and an uneasy sense of doing the wrong thing. The rest of my family are happy with the arrangement and have no qualms about my absence (rude!), but change is hard. I am deliberately and consciously changing my status quo. I am sure that different will be good, but it will still be different.
I’ve been exploring in London and attending carol services in dramatic and historic settings. I’ve appreciated more than ever before, traditional choral Christmas songs – maybe I’m finally growing up? I’ve also skipped arm in arm through Winter Wonderland and round Christmas markets, so perhaps not so grown up after all.
Some aspects of Christmas Past remain though, Mum has bought us each a few Santa sack presents, and we’ll still be doing presents after lunch. We’ve played cards and Tom and I have been singing duets; there’s an abundance of alcohol and chocolate around the place. There’s also a tiny new addition, often asleep, in the corner of the room as the festivities commence. I can’t imagine that Jesus got left in the manger for long if baby cuddles were in the offing. There’s nothing quite like a tiny baby present at Christmas, and he’s already being smothered in cuddles and love. Christmas future is bringing the next generation, and new traditions combined with the old. Christmas future is different, and different is actually pretty good.