We don’t always have conventional Christmases. Because Ned and Joy spend every other year with their Dad and his family, every other year it’s just Alan and me. We made a decision early on to see this as an opportunity. So later today we are heading for the Scottish borders and the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel for a couple of days of eating, drinking, walking (in a well-that’s-made-enough-space-for-the-next-bit-of-eating way, not Proper Walking with dubbin and whistles and sticks), and generally unwinding after a pretty full-on few months. It will be lovely, just like our Christmas in Bruges a few years ago was lovely, just like our long, leisurely Christmas lunches in good hotels have been lovely.
Don’t get me wrong. I really hate being parted from my children at Christmas. But here’s the thing I think we can sometimes forget about Christmas: it’s just a day. My children are my children for as long as I am alive. We do have great times together at Christmas, but other times are fab and memorable too. This year, I loved eating Indian tapas with Ned before we went to the theatre, talking about his plans to travel to Canada. Taking Joy to have her belly button pierced was hilarious and something I will always remember. (You had to be there.) And there are so many other days that have been just as lovely as Christmasses with them. (In the interests of truth and not coming over like something off a Christmas card, I must say that there have been downs as well as ups.)
Christmas Day is just another day: another stitch in the tapestry of your life. Just like no-one ever dies wishing they spent more time with their spreadsheets, I very much doubt any of us will go to the grave fretting about whether we should have plunged the Brussels sprouts into iced water before we sauteed them with Parma ham and chestnuts. So please, let’s all relax. Enjoy. And remember there’s every chance we will enjoy the 12th of January, the 17th of April and the 9th of July just as much as we enjoy tomorrow.
Coda: I do realise that, if you are a Christian, tomorrow is more than ‘just another day’, and I mean no disrespect in what I say here. I suppose it holds equally true though: Christmas Day is a focus for Christian celebration but means little if the rest of your year doesn’t rest on your beliefs.