In this blog, Llinos reflects on Christmases past, present, and future, and describes the new traditions she has developed to enjoy Christmas again.
A few weeks ago we got our Christmas tree out of its box and began discussing how we would decorate it. My husband enthusiastically wrapped the branches with lights, while I nervously watched our cat for signs that she was about to attack the tree. A thought crystallised in my mind, that my mum would never see this tree, as this year is the first time we’ve used it, and she died in June 2018.
My parents gave me a series of idyllic Christmases, as I grew up in North Wales in the 1990s. We were a close-knit family, just the three of us and my paternal grandparents. Our Christmases were perfect, as far as I was concerned. From the tree, to the dinner, to the company, it didn’t get any better than this. Even as a little girl, I knew that most of this was orchestrated by my mum (with a helping hand from Santa, of course).
Things naturally changed as I grew up. My grandparents died, and we gained a new dinner guest in my husband, or we would spend Christmas with his family. If my parents spent Christmas alone together, they would send us photos of themselves in their Christmas jumpers, the tree from my childhood as their backdrop. As solid as the tree itself, my mum kept her childlike glee which had her racing to rip wrapping paper off the presents before any of us.
Even during her final Christmas, when she was in pain and struggling to walk, she never stopped smiling and couldn’t hand us presents quickly enough.
This year, we’re spending Christmas just the two of us (plus cat) in our own home. It’s the first time we’ve ever done this, so it feels like it’s the perfect time to make our own, new traditions. Christmas and its rituals can be sacred to some. Indeed, in my mum’s death I feel I am grieving not just her but the Christmases we shared. Yet by creating new rituals, I feel I’m able to honour hers.
There’s going to be no card from my mum, her loopy handwriting forming a loving message from her and my dad. There won’t be a present wrapped in her trademark metallic paper. There won’t be the tinkle of her laugh as we read cracker jokes, or whispers over which chocolate to choose from the box as we watch the queen’s speech.
There have been moments when I wanted to shout “Screw you, Christmas!” when a festive advert comes on TV, or pledge not to celebrate Christmas at all in protest of my mum’s premature death, when she should have been celebrating Christmas for another two decades.
“Screw you, Christmas!”
Instead, we’ll play a game for the first time; a tradition that will be ‘ours’ from then onwards. We might even add a new vegetable onto the menu! Rather than settle down to watch a film, we’ll wrap up warm and take a long stroll through the park. The options are endless.
Christmas is the perfect time to remember the past, enjoy the present, and look to the future. If the rest of the year and build-up to Christmas is busy, Christmas Day itself is encouraged to be a time of relaxation. By creating new traditions, with an eye on yesterday, we’ll be grieving for my mum but also making a path through that grief.
Merry Christmas everyone.
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