Well, it's been an exciting festivity-filled couple of weeks and it's still going strong as we prepare our collective digestive systems for a sprint to the finish as represented by Orthodox Xmas (otherwise known as any excuse for a party, obvi).
Which brings me to reminiscing about how Christmas in the UK is very different to the Christmas in the Old Country of Z's and mine childhood (where we walked barefoot through snow and did our homework by light of candles blah blah blah). For one thing, seeing how we grew up in the Communist/Socialist era Christmas was not officially celebrated; but because children need presents like masses need opiation of some kind or another Santa was remodelled as a slavic wintersmith Grandfather Frost and the Christmas holiday fused with New Year's Eve.
The New Years of my childood were exciting times, what with all the food and decoration and accidental drunkeness through pilfering the rum layer of the rum cake while the parents were distracted. One of the earliest memories I have is of waking up to a tree strung with colours and glowing things, of being lifted high in my father's arms to reach out my hands to a star. I remember too the days leading up to New Year, when the sturdiest member of my family (aka my father, until he died) would haul a tree home from the market and the most controlling member of my family (aka, my grandmother) would climb a shaky ladder in order to get down the tree ornaments (a mix of the cheap and the antique) and oversee their placement.
The tree decoration was a thing in equal measures perilous and wonderful. It began with a pointy star to crown it, then the electric lights, then the glass ornaments (those smash-happy lovlelies, at least two of which would annually plummet to the floor with the dizzying abandon of bunjee jumpers), then tinsel, then threads of silver ribbon to cascade down branches and finally the small candles in their holders (which we'd light, because nothing says 'festive' like Firehazard Deathtrap*).
It certainly was one of the most exciting times of the year though. By evening time we would be dressed in our best clothes, and the table decked out with proper tablecloth and the good china, groaning beneath the weight of food on offer (except for that one year when the dog stole the roast chicken right off the table and we ate tinned tuna and toast instead). the dog and I would be in a barely contained frenzy of excitement, strung out like emo kids at a concert (although I still managed to draw the line at barking at fireworkds and humping the Grandfather Frost doll beneath the tree). And then after the disappearance of my father on some flimsy pretext/the uncanny appearance of Grandfather frost bearing The Most Exciting Red Sack In The World, I would be in a fever and a swoon at the brightly-wrapped parcels being dropped into my hot little paws, and I'd feel like I was honoured and blessed, receiving something sacred and sublime.
I remember the presents vividly (especially the pink bathtub for my Barbie, with openable little taps which produced proper foam) but there were never heaps of gifts (except for the year my father died, which only made it sadder). The Old Country was poor, its shops had limited fare (although I had pretty low expectations of toys, and pretty much anything would be The Best Thing Ever) and getting gifts at all felt incredible.
The spirit of the Old Country was in many ways unsullied, and though we still longed and desired, the objects of our yearnings (coloured pencils, stickers, coloured napkins) were laughably simple when I compare them to the West.
This is one of the things which has always bothered me about New Country - the blatant consumerism which pervades it, especially throughout December. All that glitz (the one time of year I object to glitz!) all the adverts, all the BUy Buy Buy!!! Buy More!!1!! from every channel and page and corner branding itself into the Collective Cornea until the bathing of the brain occurs. The whole process is creepy for me - the sensual overstimulation, the excess, the undertones of love and worth and happiness being bought.
Z and I try to consciously steer away from it all. We have put a two-gift limit on what we get each other (because my household will never dispense with present-giving entirely as long as I have breath to whisper Oh! the shiney...) and unless we are solvent there's a £30 money limit as well. We shell out on one gift per person for family members we're going to be seeing, and have agreements with friends to invest the present money into buying food/drink to celebrate together instead.
I'm pretty sure that if I reproduce I will be even more stringent in my views and that a strict 'only one present may be given from anyone to the child' will be announced and enforced rigidly. Children don't need a sea of gifts, unless they are deprived children living in poverty, in which case bring on the giving. (Of course some would argue that adults don't need vast numbers of shoes either, but this is clearly just short-sighted, vile and inaccurate propaganda by Oppressors and Shoe Haters). I foresee there may be some difficulty in making my family see eye to eye with me on this one, considering there have been factions who've been waiting grandchildren ever since I got my first period. Confiscation may become necessary. And Stern Looks.
On the bright side as my children bang together the twigs and plastic cups they may well receive in lieu of actual presents, they can comfort themselves that when they turn 18 they can be just as capitalistic as they fancy; and I'm sure that my mother will find a measure of relief in seeing that it's not just her I oppose, but also The World.
* great name for a band though