Happy Christmas! Are you still celebrating, or is it all over for you? We begin our decorating and celebrating later than most people and I like to keep going for the whole twelve days.
Tradition is important to us at Christmas, the same rituals being performed year after year, reminding us of Christmases past and the shared memories cementing us together but as time moves on some things change and some rituals are discarded because they simply don't fit any more. So, on the First Day of Christmas The Mathematician bounded into our bedroom to sit on our bed and open the small gifts which Father Christmas had left for her while she was sleeping, even though she is twenty-one years old. There was the familiar clementine, the chocolate money, the small box of her favourite chocolates and the new treats which befit her age. Later, she drove us to her sister's house where, in a break from tradition, we opened our gifts and shared the feast, set on a table laid with my great grandmother's tablecloth. Everyone had a hand in preparing this feast but my only contribution was making stock with a chicken carcass the previous day which the Best Beloved then used to make the gravy which we took with us. I got off pretty lightly and I am hugely grateful for a day in which I neither cooked nor washed up.
On the Second Day of Christmas The Teacher, Tom Kitten and Flashman went to his parents' house and the Best Beloved, The Mathematician and I went to Blists Hill Victorian Town for a grown-up brunch in the Forest Glen Refreshment Pavilion. We were greeted with fizz and canapés before eating a hot breakfast, then we indulged in croissants and bagels before finishing with chocolate tiffin and hot chocolate. There were Christmas crackers, white linen tablecloths and a happy atmosphere and afterwards, beneath pale sunshine, we wandered around the museum for a while. It was a new way for us to spend Boxing Day and we all enjoyed it.
The picture in the middle of this photo shows the Forest Glen in its original setting at the foot of The Wrekin. The building was moved to Blists Hill in the early 1990s.
On the Third Day of Christmas we went to Cardiff to join the rest of my family, as we have done on this day for the last few years - my parents, my sisters, their partners and my niece and nephews. There were twenty-one of us. We always go to the theatre together in the afternoon on this day but this year, there was something important for us to do together first: we said our goodbyes to my grandparents. It is several years since they died but we have been waiting for the right time and the right occasion, and this was it. My father had bought two large planters for the garden and into each he tipped some compost, and then we added my grandparents' ashes. One by one we came forward, first my parents, then me, my sisters and our children, and each of us shared a memory while using a trowel to add some of the ashes to the planters. Some of the memories were funny, all were fond; when the youngest boy, born two years after my grandmother died, said, "But I didn't know Nanny," my father gently replied, "Then just come and say goodbye," and he did. When all were done, we charged our glasses and raised a toast. We would have like to sing but our hearts wouldn't let our voices rise. It was beautiful, very moving and just right and although it may seem strange to have left it for years, those years meant that we were no longer overwhelmed by grief and could remember Nanny and Gramps as they were, rather than focus on our own loss.
The theatre? Miss Saigon and it was good, the helicopter was amazing, but I wish the singers' diction had been better so that I could have made out all the words.
On the Fourth Day of Christmas we left Cardiff and my family and slowly drove home through heavy traffic. We just made it to Birmingham Airport in time for The Mathematician to catch her flight to Paris, where she is spending the New Year. She's so grown up!
On the Fifth Day of Christmas the Best Beloved and I gave ourselves a special gift: a day for just ourselves. I really do love being with my family, especially at this time of year, and I loved spending lots of time with my friends during the week before Christmas, but I was ready for a quiet day. I drank buckets of tea, ate some chocolate, did quite a lot of crochet, watched a film and didn't leave the house. I enjoyed the lights on the Christmas tree and the candles on the mantelpiece. I didn't speak to anyone except the Best Beloved and I thought about my grandparents a lot. It was a refreshing, restorative day.
I know that Christmas is a difficult time for some people and if you are one of those people, you are probably feeling relieved that it's over. I've been there and I really do understand that. However, for me this year, it's not over yet and I am cherishing these days of small treats when the pressures and distractions of day-to-day life are put aside. Tonight we'll open a bottle of wine, light up the mantelpiece and the Christmas tree and count our blessings.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x