Before I was married, when I was still travelling home to Devon for Christmas I always used to take the week before as holiday but be back in the office between Christmas and New Year. I just didn’t want to miss out on any of the build up to the big day; the carol service, walks on the beach, carol singing around the village, it was as much Christmas as the turkey and the stockings. When we got married it became much easier to take the time between instead but this year I had enough holiday that I’ve got both; I finished last Friday and I don’t go back to work until next year. And for all that early December didn’t feel very Christmassy because the thermometer said it was more like early October, now that we’re here it’s feeling very festive and very chilled out.
And yet on paper we’ve not really done very much. We took the children to have tea with Father Christmas and we’ve been to friends’ annual gluehwein and gingerbread party but we didn’t stay to carol singing in the pub, and we missed the carol service because out little trio were just too tired to take out of the house of an evening. Pip and I set off early one morning and did the big supermarket shop, and I pottered around town one afternoon to put the final touches to the Christmas shopping and now we only have to leave the house to pick up the turkey on Christmas Eve. We’re ready. Even the knitting that needs to be finished for Christmas day is at least finished even if not currently dry or wrapped.
I think for the first time in years it doesn’t feel like Christmas is happening in a rush. Right now the time together stretches out in front of us like an ocean and it means that there’s time for the little things. Time to sit on the sofa and read stories together, time to work with H to put up a new section of garden fence – very festive I know! – and time to just enjoy being back together as a five, just as it was in the summer.
We hosted Kitty’s first playdate where her friend’s Mummy didn’t stay, and I loved having another little girl in the house running around with our two and all three of them trying to entertain Pip. Definitely the more the merrier. We had homemade pizza for lunch, the girls played dancing and dressing up, H showed them the disappearing handkerchief magic trick, they built a fabulous Duplo castle for all the Duplo princesses and we pulled out the pipe cleaners and mini pompoms to make some mini Christmas trees to hang on our tree.
There’s that lovely Danish word of “hygge” that defies literal translation but gets used to mean a sense of cosy contentment, the feeling you get when everyone is happily playing and you have the whole family wrapped around you. It seems to put people at the centre of the order of importance not trappings or meals or presents and I think that’s how it should be. As much as I love my Christmas tree and the decorations and my homemade mince pies, they are not what makes my Christmas. My Christmas started the minute the five of us walked through the door last Friday night. It’s in the dancing around the lounge to our Christmas playlist, hearing Kitty sing the songs from her nativity play and noticing how Elma has heard them so many times she joins in perfectly, the snuggles with a Pip who is clearly very glad to have his Mama back home again, and time spent with H without feeling the pressure of a to do list a mile long. And for our family it’s in the re-reading of the nativity story and the celebration of the birth of a very special baby.
This afternoon I think we’re going to make sugar cookies, or maybe go to the park, or maybe get the clay out to make some more ornaments. They’re all fun activities and which one we do doesn’t actually matter, it’s more about being together. We’ll also probably do a couple of loads of laundry, cook meals, wash up, hoover and put another fence panel in because that’s what family life looks like, and that’s OK too.
In looking for a good definition of hygge I found this: “a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary everyday things simply extraordinary”. And I think it hits the spot quite perfectly. That’s our magic of Christmas. But it’s also the magic of everyday, and with a bit of luck and a following wind, the magic for the rest of the year too.