It has been a low-key Christmas this year. Deliberately so, I hasten to add. And consequently totally free of stress, which was the prime aim. Bliss! With the added bonus of discovering a radio station that was broadcasting favourite carols and a Christmas morning service whilst I got on with making our lunch at a leisurely pace. Even the weather played along, sunny and bright though very cold until today, when it’s turned wet and miserable, with a chance of snow, as befits the Feast of Stephen.
In past years at Christmas we have traditionally joined our large family group either in England or Switzerland, depending on where we happened to be, and enjoyed the company and sociable activities as well as over-indulging in good food and drink. We broke with tradition last year, which was a first for my mother: a delicious meal in an excellent restaurant. However, as she gets older (and she’ll be 99 in under 6 months) simply getting herself dressed to go out has become quite stressful, and by the time she’s actually ready to leave she just wants to lie down and have a snooze.
Hence the decision to spend the day quietly at home by ourselves enjoying a traditional turkey dinner with all the traditional trimmings and a glass of wine. We were supposed to be following it with Christmas pudding and rum sauce, but tummies were full and it was almost too much effort to get up from the table; we just managed to flop into our comfy chairs with a mince pie and a cup of tea while we welcomed the Queen into our midst. Then, thanks to Facetime, we chatted for a few minutes with the clan gathered in Switzerland, who all appeared to be as replete as we were (oh yes, my granddaughter has become an expert at the English Christmas turkey dinner, and luckily has a dining table large enough to accommodate the whole family including both sets of in-laws). We later facetimed the grandchildren in England (also turkeyed out) and opened our presents.
Considering that this was the year where we had consciously decided not to exchange many presents, and had instead made generous donations to charities, with only the favoured few getting boxes of chocolates or biscuits provided by the milkman, we had an amazing number of packages to open, and the contents made an impressive pile on the table.
What do you give two elderly ladies who have said they don’t want anything? Very practical things, actually, all much appreciated: several bouquets and a poinsettia, lots of biscuits, chocolates and toiletries (including 5 face cloths!), three calendars, two amaryllis plants, a nightie, a scarf complete with ingenious hanger, an interesting book, a draught excluder, and two shepherds as company for the lone angel.
And mugs. Six of them. Big ones. Huge! My mother has already decided who will inherit these, and possibly soon, since there is no space for them on the mug shelf.
Alternatively, looking over the bounty, she has another suggestion. “You could bake a few more cakes and mince pies,” she says, “and set up a stall on the forecourt for people passing by. Or feed the homeless.”
Right. Good King Wenceslas set a fine example, but I don’t think I’ll be following it today. My excuse? Well, I haven’t got a page, for one thing … and I did actually contribute to the food bank last week while I was shopping … does that count? And now – since 4.30 – it has actually started snowing! And it’s sticking! Doesn’t that make it all perfect? (As long as you don’t have to go out this evening.)