THE LEAD UP TO CHRISTMAS never fails to leave me a little sweaty-palmed and panic stricken as I wonder aimlessly around packed shopping centres, a jarring rendition of Jingle Bells ringing in my ears.
School and work commitments escalate during this heady count down and before I know it, it’s Christmas Eve with precious little time to prepare. I’ve always envied those who start planning in January. The elite (and slightly smug) few who manage to grab bargains all through the year so they don’t join a last minute seething mass of humanity all sporting similar expressions of: “It can’t be Christmas already, surely?”
Of course, eventually, I always get into the swing of things. Lights are strung, the Christmas tree dressed (this year joined with duct tape on account of our fat cat snapping the trunk while climbing its lofty heights), and in a flurry of creativity I even made a rustic grass wreath to adorn my outdoor table.
In hindsight, I shouldn’t have panicked at all. I was inadvertently swept along by the media frenzy and commercialised messages audaciously revealing how many shopping days were left. In reality, my gift list was relatively lean, food aside. My family live in South Africa so, given the dubious history of missing parcels, and the predicted mail meltdown following Madiba’s death, Christmas cards sufficed. American cousins visiting for Christmas requested Australian memorabilia – easy.
My own children’s wishes were a little more eclectic. My daughter listed a ukulele, a bag of lychees, a couple of mangoes and a pomegranate. Before labelling her a fruit loop, I decided her self- imposed ’austerity measures’ either stemmed from her parents lamenting the high cost of school fees, or from her being genuinely in tune with the economic mess in which the world found itself. I suppose I can be grateful it wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree.
My husband was content with “five matching pairs of socks”.
My eldest son casually mentioned “well … I’d quite like to buy a new camera lens …” He clearly hadn’t overheard the school fee conversation. My youngest showed interest, (among other weapons) in a Bear Grylls Knife he assured was only for felling trees and warding off a possible brown snake attack while sleeping in his neighbouring friend’s bush cubby. My husband was content with “five matching pairs of socks”.
Gifts aside, a mild panic also arises when I think of the long, looming holiday ahead. As I observe my teens becoming a little restless, I’m soberly reminded that bar one week of the holidays, the remainder will be spent at home with two wrestling for the remote and the third asking who has finished the yoghurt she hid behind the cauliflower.
Admittedly, they will all be intermittently out earning their keep in various jobs including serving fish and chips, dog sitting and selling beachwear in a trendy city store. It’s the gaps in-between that are vaguely concerning. The hot, humid endless Queensland summer days where staying indoors in air conditioning is the only sane way to survive.
But as past experience shows, I know it will all come together wonderfully and in the messy, sweaty ensuing weeks we will all find our rhythm and savour this precious time together. I will remember why I love the Christmas season and how truly blessed we are to be together.
And in the midst of this mad rush towards the finish line, far beyond the tinsel and tired jingles will be the poignant reminder that without Christ at its centre, it’s not Christmas at all.
© Lois Nicholls