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13 November 2008

Christmas in the UK

Ahhhhhh!! Christmas (Xmas) for me in the UK, what can I say? It is an experience that you cannot create anywhere other than in your own home, with your own family, in your own country. There are certain mystical things that just make it work and give it the magic that is Christmas. Obviously the Christmas of your youth can never be captured again, waking up on Christmas morning with an idea of what you wanted Santa Claus to buy you, and on going downstairs realising he had bought it for you. A brand new 10 speed racing bike. How did Mr Claus ever get that bike down the chimney, he's a very clever man, and the tooth fairy is also very clever for putting money under your pillow while you are sleeping without waking you. Mysteries, magical moments and wondrous times.

The Christmas I remember in my adult life (that can't be recreated in Izmir however hard I try) is a special time for me. In early December we start setting up the fake green plastic unlifelike Christmas tree with the 5-10 year old baubles and tinsel used for decoration. We then make a start on the ceiling of the living room hanging hideous sparkly dangly things everywhere we can find a space. The next job to do is to place something on every flat surface, shiny things, preferably some angels, but some more tinsel or a bonsai sized fake christmas tree will do. Then we put up the empty card holder on the wall, empty because until someone sends you some, you haven't any to fill it up with. That's it, the scene is set.

Next we need to buy presents. The whole of December is devoted to going from store to store in a hunt for presents. You set off at 7.00 in the morning to beat the rush and are still out there at 8.00 in the evening because you just can't decide what the hell auntie Jess will get a kick out off. There is no rule of thumb when it comes to buying presents for the relatives, so, it is up to you how deep you wish to go and of course your wallet limits this. If you are intelligent then you set up a system between yourself and your family that allows all families to have a spending limit and to only buy one present for each person. If you are not this intelligent or if you're from ultra rich stock, then it all just gets out of hand. One Christmas alone we were buying 14 presents for each person and if you times this by 14 people and about £10 to £30 a shot, it starts to get very expensive. Ok, so we've been out and we've have bought the presents, now what?

Well, now it's the waiting game, waiting for cards to come so you can decide who to send to. Waiting for all your favourite Christmas films and shows to come on to TV. Waiting for Christmas Eve so you can forget about work and get as drunk as a skunk. And lastly waiting for Christmas day so you can open your presents and drink wine and get merry, hence, Merry Christmas!!!

The strange thing about choosing who to send cards to is, usually all of your workmates by default get cards whether you like them or not, your neighbours either side of your house get also get cards and your immediate family. As for everyone else, we play a tricky game of Christmas card Russian roulette. You wait and if a card arrives for you then you quickly send one back out of your stock of empty (who the f@@k are you?) cards. The tricky position comes if someone on your street sends you a card just an hour before the end of Christmas Eve. If this happens and you return a card to them straight afterwards, then it looks like you have not been thoughtful enough and seen to be late sending the card when really it was them that were the unthoughtful ones. Even trickier is when a card arrives four days before Christmas from an aunt in Australia, you have no chance of returning the card because the last postal dates have passed and if you could send it, it would not arrive until January. They would know you definitely weren't thinking of them.

The Christmas and New Years eve in my home town in the UK is synonymous with getting out early in the evening to paint the town red. Also there is mission to get as many girls as possible to give you a deep and meaningful kiss, "Christmas kisses!!". Of course, there is nothing meaningful about it, it is just two people completely blitzed out of their tree with booze and crashing together in a moment of drunken stupidness. Nevertheless, a kiss is a kiss and it was good while it lasted. Sometimes you would get a long prolonged kiss or sets of kisses that would last for half an hour or more before you moved on again to the next conquest. If the kiss lasted any longer than the 'duck and chuck' type kiss (quick in and out before you realise she is a total minger) then your best friends would automatically have moved to the next bar. Forgot to mention 'pub crawl', all the bars are very close to each other and we do the pub crawl, one pint here, one pint there and then one pint I don't know where. Basically you just follow a trail until you have drunk too much and no longer care. You could have the worst night of your life and end up in intensive care but everything would be ok by the morning, Christmas Morning!

Christmas finally arrives and the magic for me is the togetherness, there is only one day (maybe two days if you count boxing day) of the year when people seem to be nice and for those one or two days you feel like this is what the UK should be like year round. Anyhow, for me it involved waking up early, listening to some Bing Crosby or Perry Como and getting in to the mood. Then we'd all wait for my sisters to arrive from different locations around the country. Whilst we waited my Mother would be putting the final touches to the Turkey. The Christmas crackers are ready to be pulled. The Christmas tree is just about ready to fall down because of the amount of Christmas presents underneath and the washing is already piling up (dirty dishes). My sisters finally arrive with bag loads of presents (God only knows how much they spent). Everything is perfect, we always wish for snow on Christmas day but because of global warming it very rarely comes these days and if it does just a few sprinkles of the white stuff. We settle down and open our presents usually smiling when thinking, "Why the hell have they bought me this?" We then eat our Christmas dinner, pull crackers and read the terrible jokes inside and drink lots of holiday spirits. From the dining room we go the living room and proceed to fart, laugh, play silly games and sleep whilst watching 'the queens speech'. My sisters eventually leave and I am left with my mother and father until someone out of the blue holds a party and I get the chance to leave, or my mother and father arrange a quick game of 21 with their friends and I stay and play. For a small amount of money we lie, we cheat and then finally finish our game of cards and then as the booze wears off we reflect on the day. A fun day with laughs and no stress but a day that also leaves a void after the day is over. Everyone goes their separate ways again and this leaves you waiting for the next Christmas.

Christmas is not just the day but the build up to the day, for me it is virtually impossible to create this experience in Turkey, however hard I tried.

Pissed of Santa - Cartoon video of how Santa really feels

Have a wonderful Christmas wherever you are!!


danielle said...

what a lovely story...