Ho ho ho. Here’s something I wrote for The Age on the Christmas spirit. May you all have a wonderful festive period!
I was going to say that Christmas has crept up on me, but actually this year it feels more like an ambush and I feel a little resentful.
Most of my grinchiness is due to my woeful non-attempts at Christmas shopping. I left everything too late and then Googled “What time does Big W close?”, which prompted a frenzied nocturnal shopping expedition.
I’d sworn to myself this year I’d keep my list of present recipients minimal – but after a few laps of the aisles, I’m sucked in and find myself considering a potpourri sachet for that neighbour I smiled at once in 2014.
But I decide against it. All that spending is wasteful, and how many presents are really appreciated on the big day among the gift paper ripping, the forced smiles and everybody being overwhelmed by ham?
But despite all the Christmas chaos, I know there are some aspects that make it all worthwhile.
Like the other day, when I was dragging my two small children to the supermarket. I was just dousing the trolley in acid to protect us from the coronavirus when the little ones shrieked. They’d spotted a Christmas tree in a nail bar.
Running towards it, they danced around it with their arms raised like two possessed elves. Never mind that the tree was tacky and sparsely decorated. The people inside looked up from their lobster-roll-red shellac manis, tipped their heads 35 degrees to the right and watched my girls wistfully. As did I.
A couple of weeks ago, my parents invited the girls to help decorate their tree (though as the post-lockdown Christmas traffic doubled the length of the journey to their place, I found myself fantasising about back-burning their tree). But when we finally arrived and I started to unbox those old familiar decorations, that Christmas feeling returned.
A velvet Santa, a felt teddy bear and a, ahem, “unique” bauble that Mum made in a 1970s craft class. My children looked at these decorations with the same reverence I did decades ago.
My festive feelings peaked when we untangled the Kmart lights that had lit all the Christmases of my youth. After some nerve-wracking moments of unresponsiveness, they spluttered into life, casting a lurid pink glow on my youngest’s amazed face.
There’s one moment that de-Scroogifies me every year. I live near a children’s hospital and early on Christmas morning a fleet of tinsel-covered fire trucks hurtle past on their way to the hospital to put on a show for the kids. Something about the cacophony of their sirens moves me and I rush out onto the street, waving and cheering them on as they head off to do some of their worthiest work.