Lucy Mangan talks Christmas spirit
What is it about the festive season that melts every mama's heart? Turns out it's more than the tinsel
I love Christmas so much that, despite all the parties ’n’ shizz, I try never to make any new friends in December, because then they will expect me to be in this starry-eyed mood all the time. And I’m not.
For 11 months of the year I am NAILS. Work. Bit of Netflix. Bed. Work. Bit of Netflix. Bed. Buy basic food. Cook basic food. Mentally query every purchase I make, keep a permanent eye on every single penny that comes into and goes out of this house. Forbid new toys. Buy child new clothes only when he’s getting pressure sores from the seams of the old. NAILS, I tell you.
Then December hits and something curious happens: I melt. Everything around me is glittery and exciting, and even before
I had a child I could never see why we shouldn’t all get caught up in it completely. My cynicism gland goes into shut-down –
god knows it could do with a rest – and I make a donation to Save the Children to quieten my guilt gland too.
From then on I’m a grinning fool gambolling through Advent, permanently three glasses of Baileys and eight mince pies to the good, and ready to carol at a moment’s notice. If I was entirely clear what wassailing is, I’d do that too. Maybe I already am! Who knows?!
Now that I have a child, a genuine, actual-factual, wide-eyed innocent around, it’s all I can do to keep even the most tenuous grip on reality and practicality. ‘Oh, do you like tinsel?’ I hear myself saying. ‘I like tinsel too! Do you think we should buy more tinsel? So do I! Let’s buy more tinsel! Let’s go, right now, and buy tinsel! Loads more tinsel! Gold, silver, red, green, blue! Tinsel!’
And with that, we dash straight out of the house, leaving his father – who might legitimately have gazed at the 14 million feet of the sparkly stuff freshly brought down from the loft and remonstrated with us – behind with nothing but a text: ‘Off to Wilko for decs. SORRY (NOT SORRY).’
I went mad on robins last year. There was just something so childlike and fitting for them as decorations for my son’s first Christmas-that-he’s-actually-conscious-of. This year, we have a collection of all the things he has made at nursery over the past few weeks – concoctions of glue, crêpe and sugar paper so vile that they test my love of both the season and him to the limit, but up they’ll go, with something approaching pride.
And we’re reading a lot of versions of the Christmas story, now that he’s old enough to want to hear it. We’re not religious, but when they’re very little it hardly matters, does it? It’s essentially the story of a baby, loved and wanted, waited for and finally here, nothing mattering but that he is warm and cosy, and the centre of attention in his manger.
Mangan minor is enthralled by the story. He wants to be that baby. He’s not old enough to realise that in all the important, non-divine ways, he was that baby. He is that baby. He’ll always be that baby.