Being away for Christmas is a big deal for the family. Christmas at home has its own rhythms and even though its not something I was brought up with as mine, I think it becomes part of your life whether you embrace it religiously, commercially, in the spirit of human bonhomie or whether you just relish an extra excuse to over indulge and kiss strangers under the flimsiest of contexts.
My lot (same God, different caterers) spread the indulgence through the year with a series of celebrations and a fast to combat the eating. All Jewish festivals boil down to three things; they tried to kill us, we didn’t get killed, let’s eat. As a partial outsider the British take on Christian festivals seems to split three ways. There are those who are religious, embrace the story behind the festival and its intent and balance indulgence and introspection. There are those who do not take up their personal relationship with religion but just in case use the festivals as an insurance policy. Then there are the huge rump of nominal Christians who like an excuse to drink egg nog hnand unwrap a present, all have their place.
I think the idea of a festival in the middle of winter, at the end of the year that brings people together is a good thing -whichever way you face to pray. The specifics of when he was born, whose festival it was originally and the level of commerciality is a petty distraction – it’s your choice and Didsbury Son told me the best Christmas gag I have heard for ages. What do you buy Jesus for Christmas? A t-shirt with “What Would I Do?” On the front. That’s the spirit.
So this year we have Christmas in swimming trunks on a hot, primarily Catholic island with a fairly even British / Scandinavian split. This could satisfy everyone in the family equally, Didsbury Wife can get her religious fix, Didsbury Son can go swimming and I have a chance of herring. This could work out well. My only other experience of Christmas abroad was in a different lifetime in The Dominican Republic; a place with so little to recommend it that getting searched at the airport was a highlight. Our Christmas ideas have evolved through Northern Europe and the faux firs with fake snow that dot the resort seem at odds with the regional rhythms of Christmas.
Didsbury Son has said he does not feel Christmassy. Although this triggered a guilt reaction It comes really from the personal expectation. Our Christmas progress involves the neighbours, the cards, checking the weather forecast, dashing around with cards, presents and kisses and queuing. Part of the fun of a Didsbury Christmas is the 7am queue outside The Cheese Hamlet, Evans and Axons the Butchers. The line of bleary eyed men dispatched to bring home Turkeys, exorbitant meats and the finest smelly cheeses is fraught at best. There is a murmured concern at mixing up sage with dill. Is sage real or is it the equivalent of the glass hammer list for a new recruit? Christmas in Didsbury involves the joy of watching the lunchtime Christmas Eve post-pub panic shop; a joy to sit back and sip a cappuccino whilst other men prepare to let down their partners ingloriously.
We fly home Christmas night to join the Boxing Day throng and see if we can transport our little Didsbury Bubble back from The Atlantic. So Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and enjoy what you have. More Didsbury, Dadding and twins nonsense as soon as I have found the last Turkey in Tesco.