Is Christmas Different Now Or Is It Just Me?

I hear people banging on about the real meaning of Christmas all of the time. Especially around Christmas time. When older people hear that a youngster has received an iPhone for Christmas they seem to blame the downfall of our whole society on it. They seem to think Christmas has changed and I can't decide whether I agree with them or not. My feelings about Christmas have changed over the years but is that more to do with me than what's happening in the rest of society?

Being a child of the 80's, my early Christmas memories are of Band Aid, Wham, Peaches and Cream (a Barbie doll), Operation and a Spectrum and do not include any romanticized scenes of caroling and church. A fizz of excitement would appear in my stomach just after Halloween and this would grow as each of the following events passed.

Growing up in Newcastle, one of the events was a trip to see 'Fenwicks window'. Every year, this relatively smart department store on Northumberland Avenue in the centre of Newcastle city centre, would unveil a new Christmas themed moving animatronics display and it was up there in my favourite of the seasons events.

My school Christmas play was the next indication that the best day of the year was on its way. We would start preparing for it in late October and over the years I had varying amounts of involvement in it. Soon after the auditions for the school play were over we would begin singing Christmas hymns in our school assemblies. These two events alone kept me going right up until the highlight of my year - the school Christmas party. This event required a completely new outfit and shoes (which would also be worn on Christmas day) as well time set aside in the school week to practice organised group dancing - which I loved even more!

After what seemed like years, I finally made it to Christmas eve! You may be thinking that the hard work was over but Christmas eve felt even longer than the 2 month stretch I had just completed! It was boring and slow. It was spent picking up last bits and pieces with my mum and then picking my dad up from the pub. Once I had gotten over the pain of the day, we would go home and I would be sent off upstairs to bathe. I would then be allowed to open one present, which my mum selected for me and would always be my special 'Christmas eve' pyjamas. Then I would spend some time getting together cookies, brandy and carrots for father Christmas and Rudolph before heading off to bed where I would lie, listening to all of the activity happening below me downstairs and smelling the festive smells wafting up the stairs.

Awake all night, I would be looking at the clock constantly, waiting for it to be time to get up. The wait was agonising, I would lie there wide awake, waiting and waiting until i couldn't wait anymore. I would then run into my parents bedroom, begging them to get up now!. They would persuade me to go back to bed a couple of times but eventually, the only way to stay in bed was to invite me into theirs where I would lie, whining every 5 minutes.

Once 5:00am had arrived, I would persuade them to get up and off we would trot, downstairs to find out what father Christmas had left me. Although I spent many Christmas' with just my Mum and Dad, there were also times when my grandparents, aunty and cousins would join us. These were my favourite Christmas'. Being an only child meant that the house was always empty and I loved it when there was a person in every room.

This was the thing that made me happy as a young adult. Having got over the huge excitement of a child at Christmas and moved away to London, the excitement I felt about the season changed. I became more excited about the party scene leading up to Christmas - the fact that you would have drinks planned every night and everyone seemed to be up for having a laugh. I would also look forward to the train journey home and then arriving home and getting straight to the pub to meet up with old school friends. Christmas eve became the highlight of the festive season. My best friends birthday is on Christmas eve, and we would spend the day getting very drunk with a big group of friends. At this time of my life Christmas day was the day that dragged. Hungover, and bored with having to spend the day with family, my favourite part of the day was when we got to sit down and eat a huge meal and then fall asleep.

I have my own daughter now and as you can imagine things have changed once again. I look forward to the Christmas season for a combination of all the reasons I used to know because I have her. She has brought back the excitement of Christmas and I try very hard to make it as magical as possible. I can see that she, like me as a youngster, likes to have lots of family around her at Christmas time and has started to enjoy the small things on the lead-up to Christmas that make this time of year very special.

When I was young these things spelled the arrival of Christmas; the school nativity play, writing my Christmas cards to send, writing my list for Father Christmas and then visiting him to tell him what I wanted, the advent calendar, 'toy day' at school and the school Christmas party. I get in the mood for the festive season now by; organising my Christmas e cards, buying presents, planning our Christmas meal and putting up the Christmas tree.

I try to replicate these things for her but some things for me have changed. I send each of my loved ones a Christmas ecard in stead of paper cards, but the essence of the season is still the same for me. I still make my famillies traditional Christmas eve glazed ham. We still gather together every Christmas eve to eat the ham and other treats together as a family. These are the things that are incredibly important to me.

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