Outdoor Christmas is done. By that I mean the planters are stuffed with evergreens, the wreaths are up, and the lights are on the timer. I like to get Outdoor Christmas sorted right after Remembrance Day, so I can take a breather before tackling Indoor Christmas, which of course involves the tree, the gift wrapping, the meal and party planning, etc. My birthday falls somewhere in that lull, but I leave that to other people to plan, and really, who am I to compete with the Baby Jesus?


Christmas and I have had a bumpy ride together. I loved it as a little girl, of course. Santa was my first love, and like most first loves, he was both thrilling and terrifying. Sure, he brought you presents, but HE CAME DOWN YOUR CHIMNEY AT NIGHT WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. To this day, a squirrel scampering across the roof can make me go stiff with fear. Later, as my parents’ marriage slowly fell apart, Christmas was an annual fiasco. The night before invariably involved lashings of booze and recriminations, followed by a morning of dashed expectations and burning resentment, capped off by a dinner featuring more booze, outright anger and graceless exits. And we did it year after year, until John and I got married, had a baby, and said, “Wait a minute, surely we can do better than this?”


Shirley said yes you can, and so began Christmas 2.0. which I took over myself with a vengeance. For a few years, no tree was too tall. No gift went unwrapped, no candle went unlit, no bell went unjingled. For 6 weeks ever year, our house looked like a Yuletide explosion. One year, I was asked to let a TV design show into the house to shoot a Christmas special. At the end of October. They provided the tree and a few token gifts; all I had to do was to get my family (including the two little boys wearing adorable Christmas jammies) to enact what we usually do Christmas morning. Which we did, thereby confusing the kids to no end (“No, guys, Santa isn’t coming for another two months. We’re just doing this because for some reason Mum thinks it will help her career. Now hush and eat that candy cane.”)


Today, we have a more timely celebration, either here, or at John’s sister’s house. There are still lashings of booze, but food is taken seriously, gifts less so, and everyone appears to be happy together. Turns out that it’s not that hard, after all. Our kids are all adults now, of course, and I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering if there will be a baby soon to swaddle, if not to place in a manger. Christmas does not seem complete without one.


Happy Outdoor Christmas. May your wreaths hang properly, may all your lights be the same shade of white, and may your friends and family come together in peace. Or at least try to. I’m going to look for a manger.


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