December 2, 2013

Christmas Spirit Quest

Yesterday was December 1st, so it's officially the beginning of the Christmas Season. I know it's "the thing" nowadays to say how much you're not into Christmas, how much you aren't moved by it, don't like the commercialisation of it, or just plain simple don't like it. I have made it no secret that I love Christmas. I get teary eyed watching each and every commercial on TV (the Nexus one had me in actual tears), I love walking around London like the tourist that I am oohing and aahing whenever I see a tree or some lights, I love the commercial present buying crazy run, I love how everything looks just a tad more fun and smiley and cheerful in the middle of another cold spell. When it's getting dark even before the clock shows four pm, you need some fairy lights in your life.
Also, and this might explain some of it - it is my fourth Christmas. In total. We never celebrated Christmas when we were living in Israel, and we got to Gibraltar two days before Christmas eve 2009, so our first ever Christmas was in 2010. I am like a child when it comes to Christmas. The way I see it, I have about 5 more years of Christmases before my boys will both be to old and too teenagery to get excited about it, and I am too old to care that I'm not behaving according to the norm (I am rarely in the norm anyway so I would probably have to stop doing everything if I cared). I embrace the Christmas with all my heart. I start shopping in October, and by the time December arrives I have all my gifts ready at home and only buy the small things, I listen to the music 24/7, I put the tree up on December 1st (because Hidai won't put it up sooner).
But not this year. This year I somehow lost my Christmas spirit. Hidai says it's because we've reached Christmas so tired and after a (very) long year filled with trials and obstacles that it's no wonder all I want to do is sleep. This year has been tough, and we still have one piece of the puzzle we need to fix and won't be able to before Christmas, and today we had another meeting with Yon's advisor to basically make sure everything is progressing nicely and that Yon will get his Partially Sighted certificate soon, and on Friday we have Ron's parent-teacher conference which wouldn't have been something to worry about in regular years but this year isn't as regular as we would have liked, and on Thursday I am finally going to meet my doctor to see what my MRI results were. If you put all this together you know what you get - less than Christmas.
So I decided to go on a Christmas Spirit Quest. How do you get into the Christmas spirit when all you want to do is curl up in bed until, lets say, May (well maybe not May. That's my birthday and this year I will be old, so lets say July)?
1. Take Children to Supermarket. We took the kids to Sainsbury's to start buying silly things, and also because we didn't have milk, but mainly to watch the supermarket get all Christmasy. I love supermarkets, some of my fondest memories of Gibraltar are from the Morrisons. Unfortunately I don't get to go to the supermarket as much here because unlike in Gibraltar, I don't live across the road from the it and can take the cart home with me, and unlike in Israel I don't have a car, so I do most of my shopping online. But for Christmas I made everyone take the bus and go to Sainsbury's to buy 60 pounds worth of Christmas knickknacks and milk.


2. Tour Oxford Street. Because a) can you really beat the lights at Oxford Street? and b) these lights and that street, more than anything else in the world make me smile. Hidai and I came to London for our honeymoon. We arrived one day before Christmas eve 2003. We spent the whole week we were here in and around Oxford street. It was when we fell in love with London, and every time I see those lights, which were the first thing I saw in London, I fall in love with London just a little bit more.

3. Have a Drink at Starbucks, because for me nothing beats their holiday range. And this year they've added an absolutely divine orange-mocha to the range. It's like they've bottled Christmas in a red cup. Ok so that's a slight exaggeration, but it is very yummy and immediately makes me feel cheerful.
4. Go to a Christmas Event. Because as a stay-at-home-mum, or a work-from-home-blogger or whatever label I fall under these days, the one thing I don't have is a proper Christmas party. Hidai insists on working for companies who don't throw proper bring your partner along Christmas parties, you can't really count the kids Christmas parties at school, and it feels a bit odd to dress up in a fancy dress and drink some bubbly with myself at home. So no Christmas party. Britmums were nice enough to recognise this need and organised what you can only call a work-Christmas-Party only with no one getting royally drunk and sleeping with the boss. There was wine, there was music, there was so much fabulous food from Morrison's (whom I already confessed I miss terribly ever since I've left Gibraltar), everyone were dressed smartly, I had good friends and new friends to talk to, and there was also what I assume was a very good explanation from Morrison's head chef - Neil Nugent about how to make the perfect turkey. Being a vegetarian the moment he talked about shaking the bird by its legs was the moment he lost me, but everyone else looked really impressed. As I will be either delegating turkey duty to my mum or ordering one from Marks & Spencer, so I spent most of the talk trying to see if I know anyone in the crowd. I always find blogging events funny this way - you know so many people virtually, but then you wouldn't recognise most of them if they stood right in front of you waving a red hankie. Add to that the fact that names are really not something I am good with and an overall social awkwardness, and what you get is me mostly looking like a complete idiot trying to see what was written on everyone's tag names without appearing too obvious about it. In the end out of 80 bloggers there, I talked to six, and what's even sadder is that for me it was a huge accomplishment. But putting my social inaptness aside, it was so much fun to get to go out and have a Christmas party in the middle of the day just because. And we got a very generous (and yummy) goody bag (already ate all of it. Who am I kidding, we ate all of it on the same day), and the opportunity to take some leftovers home (which I declined because the thought of having to travel on two tubes with a polar-bear made me envision some horror stories, most of them including said bear all over my clothes).


5. Bake Loads of Tasty Things. I baked and fried and cooked, and basically I have not left my kitchen for anything other than laundry. I made tiny baked doughnuts, quick yeast-less doughnuts, real doughnuts, latkes and mini-pancakes. All within the span of four days. And I also bought some Sainsbury's doughnuts and real bakery ones. If I see another doughnut until next December it's too soon. Ok you twisted my arm. I can eat a Krispy-Kreme one. But just because you insist.
6. Put on Lights, Decorations and Tree. This year it took us three days to finish the whole thing - On Friday we put all the lights up, on Saturday Hidai put the tree up, and on Sunday we decorated the house and tree, and now it looks like Christmas has exploded all over our house. Every year I fantasise about a nice grown-up tree with tasteful decorations that we've collected around the world and are of course in matching colours. You know, like you see everywhere on Pinterest. What I have in reality is slightly different. Well, it's a tree, but here ends the resemblance. The kids think the idea is to have no empty branches on the tree and as a result we have a mismatched array of beautiful baubles and keepsake I bought over the years, Arsenal baubles (we are at 5 at the moment. But somehow there seems to be more every year), regular baubles and kids school artworks. It does not look like something you would put on Pinterest, and also for some bizarre reason - does not photograph well. But it does light up the room.

7. Listen to Christmas Music. Because nothing puts you in the mood quite as much, right? I think so, but Hidai - who is for diversion in his music for some reason - claims you can't listen to the same 10 songs over and over again for a month, even if they are done by different artists. I have no idea what he is talking about. THe iTunes claims that our Christmas playlist includes 226 songs at the moment, so they must be different. No?
8. Plan a big Christmas Dinner. Because that's just who we are. Big family dinners. Yes, I see the irony of the situation, but the truth is nothing screams holidays better than planning a meal for 11 people. Where will we put all of them in our shoebox of an apartment? Not sure. Might have to invade the neighbours.
9. Buy Egg-Nog, and drink festive coffee at home. Last year I managed to buy one carton of eggnog before Ocado ran out. This year I already have three, and of course they haven't run out. I know you can (and maybe are supposed to) make it yourself, but it took me awhile to even get used to the idea of drinking something that has "egg" in its name, and the thought of actually making one is too much for me, I prefer to think of it as having metaphorical eggs only. But anyway, it makes every coffee a tiny Christmas celebration.
10. Buy All the Gifts. Because even if it doesn't put you in the Christmas mood, at least you'll have all the presents.

With every one of those actions, I felt Christmas becoming more and more real, and if that's not enough we decided to have an Elf on the Shelf this year, only in our house it became an Arsenal Santa in the Shelf and Yon took a shine to it, so it spends most of it's time being dragged around the house together with an iPad or a few animals...

We still have the kids play and party at school, the building's tree and lights ceremony, Yon's outreach program Christmas party, guests, our tenth wedding anniversary and my parents arriving. All that before Christmas. Did I find my Christmas spirit? to be honest I am not sure. But I think I'm getting there. And if I forget it for a second, I have the 20 Amazon packages arriving every single day to remind me...
Egg-nog coffee anyone?

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