Now, I'm the first to admit that as far as the whole Christmas thing goes - I have never been the biggest fan. The consumer side of the festive season leaves a bad taste in my mouth and I dislike the expectations our society places on people, loading us with feelings of obligation and guilt if we do not conform. Running around like a headless chook consuming "stuff" that for the most part, means nothing more than an obligatory Christmas lunch stomach ache or an extra roll of wrapping paper under the tree - that really isn't my idea of a joyful family tradition.
Then I had children.
It was almost like having children gave me permission to take part in the kind of Christmas that for so long I had conscientiously objected to. I had kids, therefore I was allowed to consume meaningless "stuff" for the purpose of creating a joyful family tradition... You know... For the children.
With kids in the picture, we did the tree, and the decorations, and the lunch, and the presents, and the parties... We did Christmas.
And I enjoyed it.
This year, my children changed the rules. My children - my permission to celebrate something I don't really believe in - they stopped believing in Christmas.
They took my Christmas Spirit, examined it closely, then stamped a big fat PERMISSION DENIED across it's face.
It started with our road drip down to see TJ's family. I was all for calling it a Christmas road trip - I wanted to decorate the car and fill our esky with Christmas themed food and play Christmas carols and bring Christmas DVD's.
I bought reindeer antlers for the car - you know the ones you attach to the windows, with a red nose for the front? Fun, right? Er, maybe not.
As I was attaching them, Miss F asked me what I was doing, and when I explained what the antlers were for, she said,
"Oh mum - Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. Put the antlers down and step away from the car, OK?"
Christmas Road Trip =
Next was the Christmas present list. I thought it would be nice for everyone to decide on one "decent" present for each member of the family, instead of getting lots of little ones. I started initiating conversations about what to get certain people while said certain person was out of ear shot.
Then my children started initiating "take the mickey out of mum's Christmas present conversations" conversations.
Mary Poppins is a vegan, so Miss V suggested we make her a roast turkey for Christmas lunch.
Sammi is deaf, so Miss J suggested getting her a ukulele.
Mr R has no lower limbs, so TJ suggested getting him a new pair of shoes or some brightly coloured leg warmers.
Miss F is a fashion diva, so Miss J suggested a stripey top with "matching" polkadot shorts.
And on and on it went.
Christmas presents =
Then the Father Christmas of all Christmas traditions was snatched away from my Christmas Spirit.
My children stopped believing in Santa Clause.
One morning last week, Miss V came over and sat down next to me. She had the kind of intense look on her face that has me shaking in my "I'm an adult and I know about stuff" boots. Her brow crinkled, then she looked up at me and began...
Miss V, "Mummy, do you really think that there is a big man in a red suit who lives in the North Pole and makes presents and then delivers them all in one night? Do you really think that's real, mum?"
Me, "I'm more interested in what you think, Miss V?"
Miss V, "I think it's bullshit."
Me, "[Choke, cough, splutter].. Umm.. OK."
Miss V, "OK. Just as long as you know."
A visit from Santa Clause on Christmas eve =
With my Christmas Spirit sad and weak and rocking alone in a corner, I hardly dared believe my ears when Miss J asked me if I'd like to see the calendar she made to count down the sleeps until Christmas.
A small glimmer of hope flicked across my Christmas Spirit's rather pathetic and sulky face.
Could it be?
Could Miss J actually be excited about the consumer driven, obligation and guilt fueled seasonal event that I don't really believe in?
Close examination of her face revealed what was most definitely and unmistakably...
She showed me her calendar - a beautiful, beautiful, calendar - with lots of green trees and golden bells and red music notes.
There was just one small detail that was not quite right.
Me, "Miss J, you have one too many days on your calendar. This one is the day after Christmas."
Miss J, "Yes, I know."
Me, "How come you made too many days?"
Miss J, "I didn't... We go to Woodford the day after Christmas!!!"
Her whole body beamed with sparkling, tingling, magical anticipation and excitement. She jumped onto my lap and threw her arms around my neck...
Miss J, "Only three more sleeps to go! Can we practice sleeping with ear plugs now? In case it's really noisy at night? Or maybe when we get there we can just stay up all night! Could we mum? Pleeeeeease?"
Excited tummy butterflies flew out of her mouth as she was talking and fluttered their way down to my stomach. The electric buzz of anticipation attracted the other little people like a magnet.
Miss F squealed, "I'm not going to sleep at ALL, the WHOLE time! And I'm only going to sit on speakers. And I'll eat guitar strings for breakfast!!!"
Miss V's eyes grew wide and she asked, "Do you think we could sit in the AusLan seats with Aunty Sammi? What if we take our ear plugs so we really can't hear? Then could we?"
TJ watched on in awe, listening to all the wondrous tales of what could be possible in this mythical wonderland we call the Woodford Folk Festival.
My Christmas Spirit took in the scene before us...
It wasn't consumer driven.
It wasn't what society expected.
It wasn't out of guilt, nor obligation.
But there was no mistaking what it was.
Christmas Spirit -