Two weeks ago I did my volunteer bit, and manned (why don’t we say womanned??) the Charity Kiosk in a big Cape Town Shopping Mall selling Christmas cards. Its a dying tradition – the customers were 95% the elderly, and they all said “just one pack this year, dear; we can’t send cards like we used to, the cost of overseas postage makes it very expensive”. I know what they mean! In years past we all had lavish, loopy string of cards that constantly dropped the cards on the carpet. Every flat surface in the lounge would be decorated with cards that constantly fell over … it was all part of the Christmas season. Now I stick mine up on the inside of the front door, and enjoy the bright colours and Northern Hemisphere snow/robins/holly …. okay, I’m wallowing in sentimental nostalgia. Live with it. This year’s crop is very modest, but I treasure my overseas friends and relatives who make the effort and send cards.
And what about the Annual Family Christmas Bulletin , usually crammed on to 1 x A4 sheet, printed both sides in teeny font and single spacing. There’s a detailed account of hordes of people that you don’t know – whothe hell are Robert? Jemima? Koosie? – outlining in careful detail EVERYTHING these strangers have done during the year. Oh boy. This is where blogs come into their own. And even Facebook , for that matter. At least on FB the space limitations curb the relentless detail. Plus you get pix, which are generally more interesting that the news report.
The Woman who went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend – contains a breathless account of a British housewife’s marathon Christmas preparations. For me this section was the only enjoyable part of a grim tale; most of the fictional family should have been shot at birth. But reverting to the annual frenzy of shopping, cooking: Why do we do this to ourselves? I have many memories of gigantic Christmas lunches, eaten on sweltering hot afternoons, leaving us comatose like pythons for days afterwards.
I recall one year when sanity prevailed – well, sort of – when my Durban family served a hot, traditional cooked dinner on Christmas Eve and served a banquet of cold meat and salads and trifle etc etc on The Day. A much better approach, don’t you think?
And this leads me to one of my pet hates: paper hats out of Christmas Crackers. I hate them with a passion. My hat never fits. Because December 25th is always boilingly hot, I’m hot and sweaty even in repose, so sitting at the festive table, I’m as hot as the roast turkey, I’m steaming like the veg, and my jolly red paper crown sticks to my perspiring forehead and leaves a red tide mark on my face, to match my scarlet cheeks – I’m a female version of rubicund Santa Claus. Groan.
Despite my cranky curmudgeonly griping, I do enjoy Christmas. Theoretically its the Season of Goodwill, and I say “aye’ to that notion. Let’s spread more of it, with gay abandon – let’s all be happy, and generous. Just for one day of the year – can we all try, please?