– Until ages 6 or 7: Loved every bit of it. It was still magical and Santa was a ‘real’ entity and I remember – I do, I do – the time I saw him filling my stocking. I immediately, of course, closed my eyes for I’d been warned that if I looked too long all I’d end up with was coal.
– From 7 to 13: It was still pretty good. Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ was a bit Child’s Christmas in Wales, and there were the grandparents (whom I loved so much) and great aunts and uncles, and regular aunts and uncles and cousins galore, and the kids’ table for dinner, and Christmas crackers and maybe even a little sip of wine by the time you were ten or so. No Claus belief any longer, but still a bit enchanted. The day began after stockings and stuff, with brunch at my Aunt Freda and Uncle Norman’s place. Incredible food and merriment and carols sung around the piano and watching ostensibly teetotal Great-Auntie Nan get pissed as a nit on countless glasses of sherry as the time went on. It was, after all, “only once a year.”
– 14 to 18: The cynical teen years. Disappointment at not getting anything resembling what I wanted. Christmas was the morning and then hanging around for much of the day with the damn parents (since the grandparents were now, sadly, passed on) and having all your buddies off doing stuff with their families, and no girl to share my time with. God, I wanted a girlfriend. That would have made up for not getting any damn thing that I wanted other than crappy unfashionable clothes from assorted aunts.
– 19-25: Girlfriends came into the mix. Christmas became a tad more agreeable. Girlfriends combined with booze and partying led to all sorts of monkey-business. Not too much spiritual about those days, and sometimes too much spirituous.
– For many years after: I grew more ‘what the hell?’ about the whole thing. I do not remember a season that wasn’t mixed with a certain negativity on my part – I shall be honest about that – and will also confess to having been very unfair towards my first wife and her family, all of whom were huge Christmas people. And Christmas also, with them, included going to church. Anyway, I suspect my attitude was a reflection of my state-of-mind at the time.
– During my second marriage it was better for a time, mainly because there was a child in the mix and in the earliest Christmases we had together it was such fun having found just the right gifts for her. Then she went into her jaded teen years (which were pretty much like mine) and other problems arose and Christmas was – for a time – very bleak and sad.
– Today: My attitude has gone through something of a transformation, and I like it. What I’ve learned is that I have the right to choose those elements that work best for me. I also go into the season with no expectations. I’ve gone back to loving the traditional carols, along with other musical stuff like Presley’s Blue Christmas, der Bingle’s White Christmas, Jingle-Bell Rock and in recent years the powerful Fairy Tale of New York by the Pogues and Kirsty MacColl. And I like the food and the friends, the cards and the wrappings, and Alastair Sim’s A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve (including this evening). Not to mention Dylan Thomas’s own offering of the narration of the wonderful A Child’s Christmas in Wales, and Judy Garland singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ to munchkin Margaret O’Brien in Meet Me in St. Louis. And I find that I have gotten back to awakening very early Christmas morning, feeling a certain exultation; getting up, lighting the fire, lighting the tree, activating the outside lights and sitting with a quiet coffee.
And that all said, I reserve the right to still detest the Little Drummer Boy.
Merry Christmas to all.