I just saw Santy on the train. He’s sitting behind me as I type. Well, not directly behind me – more kind of to the left and back four rows. Our eyes met as I hoisted my bag onto the overhead storage. I smiled, immediately. How could I not? It’s definitely him! He has the roundy belly, red cheeks, big white beard, of course. But also a big red coat and a furry red hat with a white fur trim and white pom pom on top. The passengers sitting right next to and across from him seem indifferent. They may well be elves (I haven’t seen them standing up yet) but there is no sign of any hats with bells or curly-toed shoes, so I’m pretty sure they’re just normal passengers, unaware they’re sitting in the presence of the big man himself. I don’t make a fuss and Santy looks out the window pretty sharpish anyway – he knows I know. He’s probably off on a mini-break ahead of the silly season when he’ll be up to his eyes in lists and toys and mince pies. Won’t we all?
It’s mid-November and just this morning I heard a radio caller-in wish the show hosts a very happy Christmas. And she got it right back; ’Enjoy the Christmas’. Seriously? I really like Christmas, but really only at Christmastime.
This may seem like a bit of a bah-humbug approach in the face of so many who love Christmas, I guess, in November. I totally understand that people love to decorate their houses and enjoy the lights and sure isn’t it something to keep us all going and something to look forward and all of that. But my problem is that this early-onset Christmas, let’s call it, effects me too. It doesn’t help that come Saint Stephen’s day, when I will actually sit down to enjoy Christmas, the radio stations will have stopped playing all Christmas songs, there won’t be a turkey & ham lunch to be found on a menu anywhere, and all the people currently pushing Christmas down our throats will be talking about how glad they are to be able to take down the decorations and give the place a good Spring clean. At, I repeat, Christmastime.
It feels a bit like we can’t just enjoy November anymore. Quieter, no-pressure, lovely-light November. We need to be looking forward to something bigger and brighter sprinkled, conveniently, with a good dollop of consumerism. And just when it arrives we’ll be so over it we won’t enjoy the actual thing, in the moment. It’s like a metaphor for modern life, really.
This has all been a pet hate of mine for some time, but I’m finding that my problem is being compounded by my having children. Children, particularly of school age, go out into the world and soak absolutely everything up. They are influenced by others and, naturally, often want to imitate what their peers are doing and this can prove challenging when what others are doing doesn’t really align with your own family’s values. When Christmas starts in other houses in November, my children soak that up and so it kind of starts in our house too. They start asking if they can get this and that from Santy, how many sleeps to Christmas, when can they write their lists and when can we put our tree up, to which we reply; ‘Christmas is ages away. It’s November’. But that answer isn’t particularly effective.
My mother had a now-clever, then-annoying saying if we ever came home comparing our experiences or wants to those of a classmate. ‘If Mary jumped off a cliff, would you?’. Well, when you’re eight the answer, unfortunately and often, is yes! When my daughter’s tooth recently fell out and a pal told her the tooth fairy would give her an extra €20 if she left out a card, (good for them, not for us) we had to go back to a mantra we’re using more and more in the raising of our little ones – every family does things differently. Nobody’s better, nobody’s right-er, we all just do things differently. Of course it’s practically automatic that we all feel we’re missing out in comparison to those around us – is that not the human condition?
(…some hours later)
I’ve arrived in Dublin and it is Christmas. November is out, long live the festive season. Jervis Street Shopping Centre looks like a Winter wonderland, I’m surprised not to meet crowds doing the 12 Pubs Of Christmas in Templebar and we enjoy our breakfast to the sounds of carols – good tidings for ye in olden times – on repeat. I must admit, it feels lovely – bright, festive, warm. I feel the lack of something red to wear and even consider purchasing some baubel earrings. Christmas is so familiar and when you’re in Dublin City Centre it seems a shame that Grafton Street wouldn’t get the absolute maximum out of their beautiful street lights. I mean, the Brown Thomas windows are to die for.
Though you’d have to thank your lucky stars you’re not working in retail right now and headed into a good six weeks of Driving Home for Christmas. Does a Christmas bonus compensate for that kind of torture? I think not.
Do I need to update my understanding of Christmastime? Am I fighting a losing battle to maintain… what? My older-fashioned views around Christmastime? I’m becoming undecided. I know my crew will push and push for the Christmas decorations to go up sooner than I’d like (two weekends out, maximum) – should I just concede and bend to the new time frame that’s emerged around Christmas and enjoy the bloody thing now?
As it happens I have the six year old in Dublin next Saturday. We’re going to a show. She’ll be stone cracked for the street lights and the songs blaring from every shop, for all of it. And I know I’ll enjoy her joy.
I’ll just have to put up with the inevitable post-visit ‘Is Santy coming tomorrow?’ countdown – ‘No, just 31 more sleeps now’… Cue head melt.
By the way, remember yesterday, when I saw Santy? He got off at Athlone – keep your eyes peeled The Midlands!. I saw other people double-take and smile too as he passed them on the platform, so I wasn’t dreaming him. I love Santy. That kind, all-knowing person, granter of wishes, kindness personified – our trustworthy source of Christmass-y joy.
I hope he enjoys himself on his little early-Winter holiday. Though God knows he’ll get a fright if he goes into Dunnes. He’ll think it’s Christmas already and feel he’s not as organised as he assumes everyone else must be. Welcome to the world Santy…