words by nerissa

…observations, thoughts and questions

Archive for the tag “Christmas”

Joy to the world?

It’s that time of the year again. And depending upon who you are and what you have on your plate, you may use any number of terms (some of them none too complementary), to describe the week leading up to Christmas.joy

The picture on the right seems to sum it up beautifully.

Christmas is supposed to be a season of joy and happiness, celebrations and festivities. There is an enormous amount of pressure to appear happy, relaxed and joyful. But in reality, most of us are running on empty, and scrambling to keep on top of it all.

A bit like a duck on water, really. On the surface, everything is gliding along smoothly, but behind closed doors, in the crowded shopping centres, or in the car as we ferry people from one event to another, the mad paddling to stay afloat is happening.

What food do we need to take to this event? What time are the kids likely to get into bed tonight? How will I get them up tomorrow? What is on tomorrow? What day is it today? How will I find time to get groceries? What are we having for brunch with our friends? When will I buy food for Christmas Day? What are we eating on Christmas Day? How much is on the credit card this month? What time do we have to leave? Have the kids got clothes to wear to school tomorrow? Did I really promise to take the kids to the city to look at Christmassy things? Can I get out of it? WHERE THE HELL ARE ALL THE CAR PARKS?

These are just a few of the things that have been going through my mind lately.

It’s a bit like having an internet browser with 86 tabs open — ALL THE TIME!

It’s exhausting.

And I know I’m not the only one feeling like this.

In a season when wine flows freely, it seems tears are flowing just as freely.

Tears of frustration, tears of tiredness, tears of worrying about the financial pressures, tears as children leave pre-school, primary school or high school, and farewell their friends. Tears from parents and teachers. Tears from students who didn’t get the result they need to get into the tertiary course they wanted. Tears from children, totally overwhelmed and exhausted by it all. Tears from people who are missing loved ones — either separated by distance or death.

There is no doubt that there is an immense amount of pressure put on most of us this time of year, and what is supposed to be the Season of Joy is totally the opposite.

Sure, I could tell you to count your blessings and be grateful of how good your life really is, but I know you probably don’t have time to down a mince pie, let alone make a list of all the ‘positives’. And even if you did, I think indulging in a glass of bubbly and that mince pie you can’t seem to find time for, is a little more appealing at this time of year.

So, if you would rather poke yourself in the eye with candy cane, than attend one more crazy, frenzied event, the good news is we are almost there. And the serious business of relaxing can begin.

But in the meantime, I would like to leave you with the following video.

Over the past week or so, it has become my new favourite song. In a time when we are busy hurtling through time and space, getting ever so closer to the pinnacle of bedlam, this song provides four minutes of escape. It leaves me feeling less-stressed and feeling warm and fuzzy. It makes my kids smile. It gets us dancing around the house feeling happy. Even if it is only for four minutes.

I hope it does the same for you.

Wishing you PEACE and HAPPINESS this Christmas

xx

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Why you can’t judge a book by its cover (or a Christmas tree for that matter)

What does your Christmas tree look like? Does it look like one fit for a designer store? Is it a real tree or an artificial one? Is it colour-themed, or is it a hotchpotch of different decorations?

Yesterday was the 1st of December so according to our family tradition, it was the day to put up the Christmas tree. As part of our tradition, we put on some Christmas music, break out a few Christmas treats and get to work.

My husband assembles the tree, puts on the lights and the kids and I decorate it — along with the mantelpiece. Yes, we are blessed with a mantelpiece, which is lovely for Christmas time.

Each year in the lead-up to Christmas, when the shops are filled with fancy decorations and themed Christmas trees, I think, “I must buy some new decorations for the tree”. But, as I pull out all of the decorations we have when it’s time to set it up, I can’t bring myself to throw any of them away. So really, what is the point of new stuff?

On first glance, our tree is a bit haphazard. There is no obvious theme. It is not colour co-ordinated and there are decorations on it (and on the mantelpiece) that have seen better days.

So why don’t I just throw them away?

Because they mean something to our family.

Some of them are lovely, quality decorations given to me over the years by some very dear friends. Each year, as I hang them up, I think of them.

Some of them are the first decorations my husband and I bought as a married couple, which we bought for our tiny, little (live) tree. Sadly the tree has died, but the golden bells and little apples are still going strong and always bring a smile to our face.

We also have baubles with our names on them and a decoration that represents each of us. Trev — the bearer of gifts; Nerissa — baker extraordinaire; Josh — always our little boy; and Laura — our dancing princess. We even hang the decoration we bought for our dog when she was alive. Just another way to remember her.

Our family - in Christmas decorations

Our family – in Christmas decorations

But by far the most precious decorations (and also the most shabby), are the ones made by the kids. Our kids are (almost) 11 and 8 now, so their decoration-making skills have improved over the years. However, we still have decorations they made when they were toddlers. These consist of simple Christmas shapes, which they ‘coloured’, or pipe cleaners fashioned into some weird shapes.

We have decorations from their playgroup years, which include a nativity scene that Laura made (okay, it was me) complete with animals and a baby Jesus. (Don’t look too closely at the baby, as I had such a difficult time with him!)

We have umpteen Christmas wreaths ranging from the gold-painted, macaroni on a plate-variety, through to one with patty pans glued around the outside of it. One of the macaroni ones has hardly any macaroni left, but I still can’t throw it away. And needless to say, those patty pans have seen better days. We also have angels that hang on the tree, their wings being the hands of each of my children at the age of 3 or 4.

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Most of our decorations are handmade by the kids

Once they were old enough for school, my kids became better at making decorations. We have half a dozen or so ‘Christmas trees’ that the kids made at their Christmas clubs. Some more ‘loved’ (tatty) than others. We have a multitude of Santas, several reindeer and a sleigh! In fact, there is a section of our mantelpiece that is dedicated to ‘school Christmas craft’. And in another week or so, we will have more in our collection.

Some of our decorations incorporate a photo of the kids at a certain age, which is really cute, yet also serves to remind us just how many years have gone by!

Some of the decorations I remember making with the kids, and some of them I remember ooohing and aaahing over when they brought them home from school.

One of the most beautiful things about our collection of decorations is how they trigger conversations and memories.

“Remember when we made this?”

“Look how small your hands were!”

I can’t believe I thought that was a good job.”

“Look how cute you were.”

While many of them are old, and fit only for the scrap heap, I cannot bring myself to throw them away. Discarding them for something shinier and newer would be akin to discarding my children, their memories and their creativity. Every decoration on our tree has a special meaning and a special memory tied to it. It’s almost like a time capsule.

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

A time capsule of our family (including the gold painted macaroni wreaths!)

So if you are at our place this Christmas, don’t judge my tree by looks alone.

Yes, to the naked eye, our Christmas tree and surrounding decorations are a mish-mash of everything — nothing tying them together and no real theme.

But the truth is, the theme at our place each Christmas is family — something that is never out of fashion.

Merry Christmas xx

The day I farewelled my little boy

2 year old Josh with the Christmas stocking I made for him.

2 year old Josh with the Christmas stocking I made for him.

A lump formed in my throat as I handed him the letter. I watched as he took it outside and sat down to read it in the garden. A tear rolled down my cheek. This was the end of something special.

 Dear Josh

You have asked a really good question – “Is Santa real?” 

I know that you want to know the answer, so I have given it some careful thought to know just what to say.

The answer is yes — and no.

There is no one, single Santa.

Dad and I fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree — just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them, and you will do for your kids one day.

This could never make any of us Santa though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive.

He lives in our hearts — not at the North Pole.

Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch.

Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends and in God.

You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Now you know the secret of how he gets to visit every house on Christmas Eve — he has help from all of those people whose hearts he has filled with joy.

With hearts full of love, people like Dad and I take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.

So there is no Santa who lives at the North Pole. Santa is love and magic, and hope and happiness.

We are on his team and now you are too!

But part of that important job is to keep the magic alive for people who think that Santa is one person who lives at the North Pole — like Laura.

It’s very important that you do not spoil it for her. Let her believe and have the same magic and wonder that you did — until she is ready to know the secret.

We are very proud of you and love you oh, so much. And we know you are going to make a great member of Santa’s team.

Love Mum xoxoxo

(Disclaimer: The above letter is a version of one that I saw posted on Facebook last year, which I kept and modified for my son. I thought it a lovely way to answer the tricky question of Santa, so thank you to whoever posted that last year!)

My son came in soon after with a knowing look and a smile.

“Right,” he said, with a wink.

“So what do you think?” I asked him, sure that he would be a little sad. He is quite a sensitive soul after all. “Are you okay?”

“Yep,” he said with a big grin.

Oh, so it was only me who was having difficulty with it all.

So while his sister was playing with her Barbies, I took him outside so we could talk more freely and not give the secret away.

“Do you have any questions?” I asked

“Well, the Tooth Fairy? What about her?”

“Same kind of concept.”

“I thought so,” he said.

“And all the letters that Santa left us, you just wrote those in different writing, didn’t you?”’

“Yep.”

“And the crunched up carrot and reindeer food. Did you eat those carrots and spit them around the back patio?”

“Dad and I did.”

He laughed.

“That would have been hilarious,” he said. “Can I help this year, seeing as I am on the team now?”

The 'hilarious' remnants of carrot and reindeer food.

The ‘hilarious’ remnants of carrot and reindeer food.

So we sat for a while and he asked all kinds of questions ranging from how much we paid for the bike that Santa brought him, how does Santa bring back their Christmas letters every year (seeing as they have been posted in a letter box), and who eats the food we leave out for Santa.

After we had talked, as perceptive as always, he said to me: “I’m not sad about it, but I know you are, aren’t you?”

And yes, part of me was feeling sad because I had just farewelled my innocent, little boy who had been living with us for nearly 11 years. One of the last remnants of his ‘littleness’ was now gone.

There would be no more letters to Santa (except to keep the pretence up for his younger sister). There was no more ‘tricking him into bed’ because Santa was coming. No more gazing at the sky to look for a sleigh, and definitely no more entertaining theories on how Santa does what he does.

However, in front of me was a grown-up version of my son. He was wiser, stronger and happier for the knowing. Taking it all in his stride and already thinking about what he can do to make Christmas special for his 8-year old sister.

Since he has learned “Santa’s secret”, we have had many secret conversations about Christmas and Santa (often behind closed doors or while his sister is otherwise occupied), which has delighted him. He feels very grown up and is chuffed to be ‘in on it’. He even told me that I did “a pretty good job at being Santa” and that I “thought of everything!”

Thank you my darling. I tried to make it as magical as I could.

While it is sad for me to let my little boy go, it is also a wonderful privilege to be there with him as he grows into a gorgeous young man.

I would like to officially welcome him, as the newest member of Santa’s team.

Christmas 2012 - the last one when "The man from the North Pole" came to visit Josh. While the boy has changed a bit, he still has the same Christmas stocking I made him all those years ago.

Christmas 2012 – the last one when “the man from the North Pole” came to visit Josh. While my son has changed a bit over the years, he still has the same Christmas stocking I made him all those years ago. Oh and we still wear our PJs when opening Santa’s presents!

 

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words by nerissa

...observations, thoughts and questions