For some time now I have worn my Grinch-Hood like a badge, steadfast in my assertion that the Christmas season is my least favourite time of year. I find it emotionally, physically and financially exhausting. The past couple of years in particular I have struggled to see any light in the glitteriest of seasons.
This week I found myself with an unexpected free morning in Newcastle. On Black Friday, of all days. Having three hours to kill I braced myself and stepped out into the madness, expecting to hate every second of it.
Except, I didn’t. It was a crisp morning with a china blue sky. Newcastle appears to have spawned a multitude of Hobbit houses throughout the main thoroughfares. There’s a brightly painted helter-skelter and carousels playing giddy music. And there’s a huge inflatable Toboggan running right through it all.
There was good cheer in abundance. A little screaming from the summit of the sled run. Had I not been in a skirt suit I might have joined them, and screeched my own head silly. The heady scent of candy floss, doughnuts and peppery Bratwurst was everywhere. If there is a heaven, that’s what it smells like.
I took a slow walk, taking in the sights. There was a conga of mini Elsas on their way to see Frozen 2, gauzy dresses shimmering in the sun. Fenwick’s window themed by Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, little hands leaving fingerprints all over the glass as the children pressed up for a closer look. I saw two mini trains full of toddlers dressed as elves with rosy cheeks and red felt hats, eyes big as they drank in the wonder.
Those little elves made me stop. Made me think back to what Christmas is about – or could be. Wide-eyed wonder. New experiences, a sense of joy. A feeling of family, or community – shared memories to bolster you up in the darker moments of life. Not every day is as brilliant sunny as this, with its shards of ice crunching underfoot. Winter can be a long, dark season which affects people in many ways.
It was all a little fabulous, my stolen three-hour walkabout. I had time to reflect, to think. And there were memories there that made me smile, from my own Christmas’ past. There was the heady moment I first kissed my husband under the work Christmas tree (and 200 pairs of eyes!) on Christmas Eve, to begin with.
There’s the singing – every year – of songs with my step-dad after a few too many wines. Not Christmas songs. We go full belt on Lynn Anderson’s (I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden. My now legendary consumption of a dozen pigs in blankets in one sitting. The films that you share as a family, with ours having enjoyed yearly Christmas visits to see the Harry Potter films together in a large untidy group. Family bear hugs, prosecco with my niece, dancing with my friends.
And watching Doctor Who with my husband, 23 years on since that scandal-causing first kiss at the mother of all work parties. We always end the year freezing our butts off, looking out to sea on New Year’s Eve as the sun goes down, a small dog snuggled between us. So long, farewell, old year.
I got caught in a silo of my own Christmas dislike. I forgot to savour the sweet parts. My walk in the sun made me smile, and hit the reset button on my negative thoughts.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or lost as Christmas approaches then perhaps you could also think back to the sweet spots, the moments of joy or tradition that come from family and friends and the people who hold your heart. It’s worth remembering the Christmas message isn’t about wealth or gifts. It’s about love, and cherishing those that you love. And that doesn’t come from money. It comes from within.
What memories do you hold dear, which films take you back to special times? Do you have a family song that gets belted after a few eggnogs? Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to this year? My Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tickets are booked for the lag between Christmas and New Year. Let’s look for the sprinkling of magic from the Christmas elves this season.
Be merry, be well. And thanks as always for reading.