It’s that time of year…. Lights everywhere, laughing children, a myriad of Christmas decorations (some tasteful, some less so), a sense of magic and mystery in the air. Everyone seems happy to see you – I get a chocolate with my latte at the local coffee shop, the ill-fated customer services assistants at the till wearing Santa-hats are all smiles (they are obviously delighted with the rise in sales) and even the grumpy Laundromat owner whose good cheer usually could curdle milk wishes me a “happy Christmas”. Everyone is full of “peace and goodwill to all mankind”.
Everyone that is, except the mothers. You look at these haggard, frantic poor souls desperately trying to tick off the to-do lists, buggy’s creaking under the weight of presents and bags and last-minute errands and decorations and Christmas cards, trying to remember what day the school Christmas lunch is, which old uncle and aunt has been forgotten off the Christmas card list and whether they have got enough spices for the mulled wine. They smile when they see you, but their eyes look slightly mad and there is a nervous tick in their necks. What they’re really saying is, “Somebody, please! Kill Santa and rescue me from this madness!” Or perhaps it’s just me.
I am so so utterly tired from the last two weeks. I was frantically sewing on buttons for Isaac’s Christmas school play, helping him sign 30 Christmas cards for all his classmates, making and decorating Christmas cards for our friends and family, baking, shopping, planning, etcetera etcetera ad infinitum. I thought I was doing better than last year, when I really was such a Grinch I didn’t even feel like having a Christmas tree. But I seem to have swung totally the other way, and now I feel like the best part of Christmas is going to be the day after. They should have a national day called “National Mother’s Day Specifically For Mums Recovering From Christmas”, when all the mums strung out on wrapping paper, endless ribbon and turkey stuffing can go to a quiet place and rock to and fro.
All was redeemed this morning, however. There was a beautiful moment, when we were all sitting in the school hall watching the kids sing Christmas carols. They started on Away in A Manger, and immediately the tears welled up. Not because I was remembering the scratchy Mary-costume made out of old curtains that my mom made for me when I was little, but because finally, I felt that the true meaning of Christmas was being communicated. It isn’t about the lights, or the chocolates, or the cards, or even the presents…it’s about a King being born into the world. And he was born in a simple stable, with straw and cows and sheep…. not with a whole lot of grandeur and pomp, or even much planning on Mary’s part.
So, I am hanging up my Santa hat and leaving all the planning be (for now). I want to enjoy Christmas for what it’s really about – celebrating something wonderful and special with the people who I love. And yes, there will be lights, and yes there will be chocolate. But, hopefully, there will not be stress. Thank God for Christmas. What a special, magical, time of year it is indeed.