Monday, 27 December 2010

A Family Christmas

Our Christmas only starts on Christmas Eve. Until then we have been celebrating Advent. But on Christmas Eve the family moves into full-scale preparations for Christmas. Cards are made , presents wrapped, the tree decorated at 3.000 pm precisely (to coincide with the Service of Lessons and Carols from Kings College Cambridge on the radio); and meanwhile Anna and her mum do all the food preparation.

In the evening, we have our last Jesse Tree and Advent Wreath of the year at family prayers, and put the kids to bed as early as we can manage - after hanging their stockings of course. This year Ant stayed up to help decorate the house (she is 20, after all) and put out the cribs - still minus the Christ-child, of course.

Then at 11.00 we rouse the kids and set out for Carols and Midnight Mass. It is with that night-time journey, saying the rosary on the way to Church through the snow, that marks the beginning of the Christmas magic for the children; then singing and praying through the night, and returning to fall sleepily into bed. Anna and I then added the Christ-child to the cribs and filled the stockings.

The day itself starts with the kids opening their stockings, which are stuffed with silly jokey items which Anna has acquired over the year and stored away. There are a few generic things which all the kids get, but also some that are personal to each one’s tastes and interests. For example, Bernie got a booklet on identifying different types of donkeys, as she’s always slept with a toy donkey for as long as she can remember.

After grace, we have our Christmas breakfast with the table covered with candles and home made cards; and then the exchange of presents. This always follows the same pattern. The youngest (Dominique) gives presents first, starting with hers to the next youngest (Charlie) and proceeding all the way up to grandma’s. Then Charlie gives his, and so on. The presents are always chosen (or made) with a lot of thought and love. Dominique seems to have spent most of her art lessons this year making things for one or other of her siblings. There was lots of laughter...

The kids then play for a while while lunch is prepared and served. We always have real candles on our Christmas tree, which are lit for the first time for Christmas lunch, adding a very special feel to it. Lunch again follows a traditional pattern: grace, crackers, turkey with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding (home-made this year, triumphantly by Anna) and a glass or two of wine for the adults and special juice for the kids.

After lunch we went for a snowy walk, and found a pond sufficiently frozen to skate on - Bernie was given some skates a few years ago, and they fit all the girls, so there is some good-natured sharing and skating tuition. We were lucky this year to meet some another family of friends walking off their Christmas lunch - and they joined us skidding around the pond.

Then back home for some family games around the fire; this year we played balderdash, which is a word game where you invent false - and often hilarious - definitions for obscure words. Then we had some family music: Dominique has taken up the Saxophone this year, so our family jazz band sounded in fine form: Ant on clarinet, Bernie on piano, Charlie on trombone, Dominique on Sax and me on Drums. We worked up a great version of the Pink Panther theme tune which we then inflicted on Anna, who was duly appreciative.

Grandma hadn’t joined us for for the snowy walk or the word games, as neither are really her cup of tea, so we then descended on her room with a a DVD of White Christmas, which we’d given Ant and Bernie, and knew she would enjoy.

Finally we had a late light supper (mainly Christmas cake) and then sang carols around the crib by candlelight, said our night prayers, and so to bed.

And so it is every year: a pattern we have developed to ensure that the kids have a wonderful day, and that the fun and the faith are intertwined inextricably in their experience and their minds. And I think that is the reason Ant continues to come home for a family Christmas, even now she’s been away at University for two years - and this year was invited on a Carribean Cruise over Christmas. Of course she won’t come home for Christmas for ever, nor should she, but I think when she doesn’t she will re-create a faith-filled Christmas wherever she is - and that will be job done!

So I wish all readers a very happy and holy Christmas-tide, and hope that sharing our family Christmas will help you reflect on how much better yours is at interweaving fun and faith!

1 comment:

Mac McLernon said...

Thanks for sharing - it sounds wonderful!