It’s December. It’s no longer “too early”. The Tinsel Police have been packed off on compulsory leave, and at last we can officially utter the C-word without being attacked by a mob of grousing grinches.
It’s Christmas! Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! A friend was saying recently how he hated Christmas, what a waste of time it was, how bad the shutdown was for the economy. Yes, sure, he and his wife would buy their boys presents, they’d have a fish braai and swim all afternoon, but frankly it was like any other summer braai, he said. Yet it’s not, because it’s Christmas.
Nobody can cancel it or declare themselves busy at the last minute, or suddenly have to go to the office, or say they forgot. Be it secular or awash with carols and nativities, I adore Christmas. I have since I was a child, since my sister and I took it in turns to open the windows on our advent calendar.
Each day revealed a picture of miniature perfection – a star, a robin, a teddy bear – and I marvelled that anyone could paint so small. I loved it all, from the moment I awoke on Christmas morning with my dad’s old safari sock at the end of my bed filled with an orange, nuts, a cracker, a shiny coin, a banana in the heel, the Quality Streets my parents didn’t like…
There was merry church, mince pies, an all-afternoon dinner with my mum’s “waifs and strays” as guests, and visits from friends until the night, when we’d laze around replete and happy, with nowhere pressing to go and nothing needing to be done, knowing it would all happen again next year, this one wondrous day when everyone tried to be their best self.
And that, I think, is the crucial difference: everyone putting in the effort. Strangers say hello and wish each other well, because everybody knows it’s a special day. Even those working in essential services do so with a smile, wearing tinsel crowns, and the people they meet are uncommonly grateful.
What we do at Christmas becomes tradition, repeated annually, ingrained, anticipated, and then ultimately recreated by our children, in our memory. And yes, that includes a fish braai, rendered forever golden simply because it was Christmas.