You know that you’ve stepped up a gear into the next level of Christmas when Christmas Day starts, not with a leisurely waking up cuddled up in our bed, with sleepy eyed children gradually joining us as and when the light brings them to the morning, but when two very excited, very bright eyed and wide awake little girls dash into your room while it’s still dark outside.
“Mummy! It’s really Christmas!”
It was 6.10. Later than I get up on a working weekday I grant you but definitely a sign of wrigglish energy bursting to get out given that every other morning this week they’ve barely been awake by eight. Pip snored sonorously from the centre of the bed and the girls tucked up on the foot to chatter in barely hushed whispers and try very very hard not to bounce too much. They lasted until 7 at which point all of the general commotion had woken up their baby brother and with much fanfare we all headed downstairs to find out whether Father Christmas had paid them a visit. And there under the tree lay a pile of presents and five enticingly lumpy stockings set out in a row.
Well not for long. The girls dived in and sat in a happy sea of wrapping paper showing each other their new treasures and exclaiming with beautiful surprise every time they turned out to have something the same (gold coins and penguin socks) or nearly the same (ink stamps and some really sweet wind up music boxes that play Mozart). Pip tried to get into the idea and even pulled a few things out of his stocking, but then he realised that Elma was much better at opening the wrapping paper than he was and crawled over to ‘help’ her with her presents.
Needless to say she was not overly enthusiastic about the assistance and so he and I cuddled up to do a little unwrapping of our own and discover what colour of face flannel Father Christmas had brought for him (sunshine yellow!)
I love the innocence of my little three at this age. I don’t think it’s that they necessarily truly and wholeheartedly believe that Father Christmas landed a sleigh on our front lawn, magicked himself through our patio doors to fill their stockings, definitely did not go anywhere near them or their room and then whisked himself away again, it’s just that they don’t question it, they’ve never even thought to sit down and think about it. It didn’t phase them that Father Christmas had applied the same washi tape coding system to their wrapped stocking presents as Mummy and Daddy had to their main presents, nor were they at all bothered that they’d chosen half of the things in my stocking, chosen and wrapped and written the labels! I love that they did – they’ve chosen some brilliantly quirky presents for me over the year, including this year a set of Rice melamine spoons and a melamine tumbler that Elma has been trying to tell me about for weeks (“it’s flowery on the outside and inside it’s green Mama!”).
Every year we open our stockings by the glow of the tree lights and somehow it just builds the quiet magic of the morning, a sense of something special and something shared before the day really begins.
Breakfast was H’s domain; smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and toasty bagels definitely hit the spot, as did a little Buck’s Fizz in Pip’s present to me, a pair of fabulously festive Christmas champagne flutes.
And then to church to worship, to sing with joy, to catch up with dear friends and of course the annual sharing of the children’s Christmas presents to start the service. Kitty, far too shy and scared to even take part in the crib service as a non speaking and slightly processing sheep, was more than happy to go up and confidently tell everyone about her music box – I was quietly amazed!
Back home Pip napped while H and I cooked and the girls played with a couple of their presents and then after turkey and stuffing and yorkshire puddings and pigs in blankets and potatoes and carrots and beans and cranberry sauce and sticky toffee pudding and christmas pudding and the Queen we settled down into a happy fug of contentment, tummies full, smiles fit to burst, all sat on the floor around the bottom of our tree, handing out presents one by one.
It’s my favourite moment of Christmas, when all the organising and the planning and the being at the butchers at 6.45 in the morning finally pays off. The food has all been cooked and what seems like only a tiny amount has actually been eaten, the children are surrounded by presents that they’re excited about and I can sit back and just enjoy their smiles, and know that we cemented in another layer of our family traditions, that this is what Christmas looks like to our children, and I love it.