Christmas is a weird time. Let’s face it, unless you have the social graces of a Scottish drunk with a habit for eating all the purple hazelnut Roses and an inappropriate love of telling fart jokes to children, you’ll be in demand to visit all your family. That even includes those you’ve been avoiding since last Christmas when their over-indulged, chocolate-crazed progeny drove you to the edge of reason and a desperate, ill-fated dive into the cheap whisky.
You will undoubtedly complain about the lack of “downtime” and a hectic schedule. There may even be a few white lies told to steal a sneaky weekend away by yourself.
Please forgive my tone of smug, self-congratulation but for us, that happy Christmas pantomime is a thing of the past. Not just because we now live in Canada and all our family are several thousand miles away on another continent. Not just because basically I have no friends and am close to being named an honourary Scotsman. But because since Emma and I met, we’ve maintained what I like to think of as the Cartman Policy.
It’s really very simple and goes something like this: “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”
You see, we decided to avoid all the wrangling over whose parents we should visit each year and not go to any of them. With a couple of sad exceptions, we’ve stuck to that policy for the last seventeen years and it’s been remarkably healthy for everyone involved. Sure there have been attempts to subvert us and guilt us into a visit, but they quickly died out. What we gained was a measure of control and peace, plus an opportunity to do things our way.
For a few years now my father-in-law has come to Canada to share Christmas with us and that’s been great. This year the prospect of the cold weather was too much and he came in November instead to help us move into our new farm. So we’re on our own again and I have to say, it feels bloody good. In my heart, I can’t deny a little sadness that my folks won’t get to see the kids open their presents and that we won’t get to see the annual re-run of Star Wars on the BBC. But, as mentioned in previous posts, I’m a Jedi now so I know how that story goes.
Instead we get to begin building traditions with our kids. Not all of them will be fuzzy and idyllic. Some of them will probably involve shouting and standing on toys in the dark. I’d like to try to combine some of the best ones I remember from my childhood and I’m sure the missus will introduce some of her own. I’d like to start the tradition of Throttle The Damn Chicken, because I swear if Custard The Evil pecks my hand again while I’m feeding them, he’ll be a MasterChef-inspired main course by Boxing Day.
Whatever traditions we come up with, my intention is to abandon the day’s association with Christ and Christianity because let’s face it, if he’s real I’m buggered and have already booked an Advance SuperSaver ticket on the Express Shuttle to Hell so we may as well have some fun on Earth in the meantime. I’m fully intending to follow the stereotypically romantic image of a pagan and embrace their proclivity for excess feasting, celebrating, generosity and belching.
To be more specific and in homage to the tradition of Best 5 whatevers, here’s what I liked best about my family’s Christmas celebrations before the Cartman Policy took effect and what I’m going to try combine into our new traditions:
1. The Hidden Present
3. It’s Father Christmas, Not Fucking Santa
I’m not being funny but they’re not even from the same origin. Santa is a commercial North American concept that unfortunately many people are too ill-educated to know isn’t the same thing. Father Christmas is way cooler. He’s also known as Father Winter, descended from the pagan god Woden (and Odin for those Norse junkies). A frickin god. And he doesn’t wear a crappy red suit either. This fella wears green, doesn’t do deliveries and only says Ho Ho Ho when he’s quaffing flagons of ale or crushing his enemies. He’s the real deal and the lord of winter, to which puny humans should give offerings and good cheer, otherwise he’ll eat the fucking lot of you. And your cat too.
4. The Christmas Creep
Unlike the name might suggest, this isn’t about intoxicated Belgians or Frenchmen with overly familiar hands. But if you’re a Dad, being a Christmas Creep is essential to the drama of the day. Of course I’m talking about the accepted protocol for Checking If Father Christmas Has Gone Yet. Fairly obviously, given my lecture about Father Christmas above, you can a) understand why you’d want to check that this mad fucker isn’t still in the room when you bring your kids down and b) wonder what the hell is in those presents. Whatever, the Christmas Creep is essential to creating the perfect atmosphere of suspense and really gets the day off to a great start.
5. A Mountain Of Food
In the spirit of Christmas being about the celebration of winter and that the days are (hopefully) going to start getting longer and less dark, the Christmas Feast has always been an important centrepoint of the day. Whether you decide to roast up an unfortunate turkey (um, boring), or a simple chicken (I have a spare), it’s important to go Over The Top. Personally, I don’t mess about with Starters and just head straight to the Main Course. Three types of meat isn’t excessive, along with every vegetable that can be boiled, mashed, julienned, diced or roasted. On the side Yorkshire Puddings, Sage & Onion Stuffing, Pork Crackling and thick rich gravy. If you can get up after that, you haven’t done it justice.
Whatever your customs and beliefs, I hope you have an intoxicated Christmas / Yule celebration filled with belly laughs, new traditions and Jedi Knights.