When we were a baby Christmas meant… well, not very much (to us, at least – to everyone around mercilessly subjected to our screams, it meant hell). But when we were five, it meant magic – and an obligatory 5am wake up call for all the family. As we counted sheep in an attempt to get to sleep on the night we’d been waiting 364 solid days for, our innocent little minds were filled with visions; of Santa sliding down the chimney with Barbie in hand, of the overly decorated Christmas tree surrounded by piles of presents (never all good, of course – why can Uncle Bob never get it right?), and of nine rather talented reindeer circling the earth in the space of a few hours, Banter Claus on board. When we were ten, a sudden realisation that Santa could neither viably tour the world in eight hours nor still be okay to drive his sleigh back after downing about two billion brandies (wouldn’t he get breathalysed?) began to provoke the odd doubt, and when we were fourteen all we could think was “Christmas is rubbish (why that tangerine in my stocking?), Santa definitely doesn’t exist and all I want for Christmas is to break away from the family” (hashtag emo stage).
Of course, that childhood magic has gone and it’s never coming back. And deep down we all secretly wish Santa would one day rear his head, announce the world does indeed revolve around a few little elves and show those skeptical adults just what old fatty’s made of (a la Miracle on 34th street and all other Christmas classics).
But Christmas never really loses its magic. It changes; I no longer write a two-hundred item wish list consisting of different species of Furby and plastic toys from Argos, I no longer rock up to the local grotto and sit on Santa’s knee pouring out my heart’s desires, and I no longer stay awake all night on Christmas Eve unable to sleep at the prospect of Mr Nicholas plummeting down into the fireplace and experiencing a nasty collision with the Christmas tree. In fact, the only thing I’ll be writing is a status on Facebook, the only thing I’ll be sitting on is my chair, and if I stay awake all night it’s probably because I’ll be playing ‘’I have never’’ in the local pub.
But Christmas means more now than it ever did. It’s one of the only times in the whole year when we actually get to kick back, relax and watch crap TV without feeling guilty that we’re not doing the washing, furthering our careers or whatever else plagues the mind on a daily basis. The only thing that matters on Christmas day is whether your mum likes her new scarf (never too many), whether your dad likes his new socks (more the better), and whether you’ll go for the Christmas pudding or the cherry trifle (always a tough one). It’s one of the only times we devote all our energy into family, food and drinking (well the latter might not be unfamiliar but it’s the combination I’m getting at), and it’s one of the only times we can spend three hours playing Charades without being told by siblings/friends/random nosy people that we are rather sad. It’s Christmas.
In ordinary life we go where we have to go, and we do what we have to do. At Christmas we go where we want to go (well, to an extent – Auntie Fanny’s might not be top on your to-do list but the likelihood is she’ll be too drunk to reel out the old “So how old are you now, 13?” spiel anyway), and we do what we want to do. We consume about 15,000 calories and no-one (not even that “I-don’t-eat-carbs-they-make-me-bloated” type), cares. Of course the turkey has to be cooked by somebody, and, in the ideal situation, relatively well – Christmas salmonella is inevitably going to put a downer on the occasion. But if all anyone’s got to worry about is shoving a bird in the oven and not bringing it out too prematurely, I don’t think we can complain.
So the magic might not be the same as when we were five, but it’s there nonetheless and, if you ask me, in a better way. Now we know our presents didn’t come from elves in the North Pole, we can thank the people who gave them to us – and be spared from insulting the apparent bad taste of the buyer who funnily enough happens to be sitting right there watching your face of utter disdain.
And there’s something magical about everyone doing the same thing, from spending five hours attempting to understand your cracker joke to busting out killer moves to Fairytale of New York and Mariah Carey.
Whether this year you’ll be building a snowman (a fake one, obviously – after 23 years I don’t expect a White Christmas to suddenly decide to show itself), taking charge of the cooking Bridget Jones-style (what’s wrong with blue soup?), or boogying around the Christmas tree to the dulcet tones of Cliff Richard, the chances are you won’t be the only one in the world doing so. And I’m quite sure that when I jump out of bed at seven in the morning, delve into my stocking, whack out the tunes on my Christmas album and eat number 25 of my advent calendar, I won’t be the only 20-something in the world acting like a twelve-year-old twat. Well that’s the hope, and if I’m wrong, who cares? It’s Christmas.