In our house, with three young children, December is like the drip, drip growth of an icicle. We can’t think about Christmas until December, because the eldest child’s birthday is right at the end of November. But, come December 1st, the candles and balloons are tidied away, and we think about Christmas. Slowly, day by day, another drip of water freezes into our Christmas icicle. Buying and writing cards, receiving and hanging up cards. Buying, wrapping and hiding presents. Festive food treats added to the bulging weekly food shop, then stacked away on the top of kitchen cupboards (“No, we can’t eat the Pringles tonight. They’re for Christmas!”). A craft fair, a Christmas fair, a school concert, a toddler lunch party; each week more events to cram in, book a babysitter, go out for dinner and drinks. Too many drinks. Could do without a hangover today because we are all off on the Santa Train, meeting cousins, sunny but chilly, wrapped up in layers of clothes. Have to dash off quickly, we are due to be at a neighbour’s for drinks. More drinks. The icicle is slowly reaching its full length as we spend Christmas Eve in a non-stop rush of all previous activities repeated – the cards we forgot, the presents we haven’t yet got, buying fresh fruit and vegetables, wrapping, baking, forcing the children to settle into bed so that Father Christmas can visit. Father Christmas helps himself to a large glass of port and dreads to think when Christmas Day will start.
The icicle snaps off and shatters at 4am on the 25th of December. Shards of festive excitement splinter around the house – discarded wrapping paper, noisy toys played with, chocolates eaten by 6am, Bucks Fizz for breakfast at 8am, we start the Pringles at 10am (“Well, it is Christmas!”), doorbell answered in-between peeling potatoes, crossing sprouts, prodding the turkey. Finally at 3pm we get to sit down and eat, the children aren’t hungry, the mother in law queries the consistency of the gravy, the cat is sick. It starts to snow, I wonder how the in-laws will get home, the in-laws wonder how they will get home, the children want to go out and play. I look upwards and wonder how long until the real, magically, knobbly, light-dancing, colour-changing icicles will form along the edge of the roof, leaving us with their simple pleasures to enjoy.
Written by Carolyn Gray from the keyword Icicle.