I recently wrote about why I struggle with Christmas. The pressures and demands of modern festivities, tarnished by negative experiences. However, I also mentioned how my boys and I have created a new Christmas tradition. One where we get to be authentic, joyful and playful. By the time this post is published we will have enjoyed the best parts of the day. In an even newer twist to our festivities, these small people will be celebrating with their dad.
Where did our Christmas tradition begin?
Well, it all started on a rather bleak walk on Dartmoor, mid September 2017. My oldest said that a visit to the Moor would be the best gift ever, and so we daydreamed around the ideas of bacon sandwiches for Christmas lunch. They won’t eat a roast and I didn’t much fancy wasting a mountain of food. Plus, with the disaster of the previous year, and all those tears of sadness at doing what was expected rather than what brought joy… I thought that my wise young man may well be onto something.
So the idea was borne, and now we just had to put it into practise. The plans were that we would have a small Christmas, just the three of us. Boxing day would take us to mums where my brother and his clan would visit for lunch the following day- Christmas number 2. Then in the evening they would go to their dad for Christmas number 3, the process complete, and two little boys with their fill of festive fun.
Putting our money where our mouths were.
I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we had planned. I had to assert my position with my family, explaining myself and our decisions. “It’s their day too!” was one argument against the plans. Pointing out that it had been their idea I continued with only care for the three of us. There were all kinds of negative-supportive comments about the wind and rain that was forecast, the temperature on the moor in December, the “Christmas Dinner” options, the lack of time at home playing with their new toys…
But we had it all planned, and with a camping stove donation by Pie we were fully equipped and ready for the off.
When we were half way up onto the moor the heavens opened. The driving rain meant my wipers were on full pelt, and failing to allow perfect visibility. But as we parked and donned our waterproofs the clouds thinned a little and the deluge ceased. We made our way up onto the rocks and circled the area until we found a crevice, tucked between two large boulders and we huddled out of the wind. Never feeling more alive than in the bracing Christmas air.
Grins plastered to our faces for anyone and everyone to see, should they choose to look.
The mot surprising thing about that first year was the volume of people out walking their dogs. Families with small children letting off steam before the big family Christmas charged around too. And as our bacon began sizzling in our hidden spot we could hear the coos over what a great idea bacon sandwiches for lunch sounded. In amongst it all we pulled crackers and attempted to wear party hats. As the rain returned we skirted the rocks, discovering a narrow overhang, and pulled out the remainder of our crazy little picnic. The cartons of apple juice and cadbury’s cake bars soon finished off, the feast which had been decided upon by my boys was complete.
I couldn’t have come up with this Christmas tradition on my own!
The weather was closing in again, and we hot-footed it back to the car. As the doors slammed behind us the heavens opened once more, showing us that we had made the right choice to depart. But it didn’t matter that the weather was filthy, dirty. Our spirits were enlivened and reinvigorated. In a world where everything is so complicated and busy we had found an hour of calm in the most hectic day of the year. We had started to rewrite our life story and they were learning to take ownership of their choices. They discovered that it is possible to have a Christmas filled with joy, love and adventure. Without all the noise and tension of one big family Christmas. It is quite acceptable to be different, to live life to a slightly alternative rule sheet.
2018 took us to the beach where we swam in the sea, fully clothed, and wrote messages in the sand. The picture on the post is from this adventure. Last year we went to the river bank and threw stones in the river between Pigs-in-blanket hot dogs. And this year? Well, this year has taken us to the forest.
Next year will be different again.
It is their weekend with their dad, and so their first Christmas away from me entirely. That is the joy of traditions in my world. Flexibility, I have learnt, can be extended through all plans. They do not need to be fixed. And when we celebrate OUR Christmas, I shall be asking if they would like to take the camping stove out into the wilds once more. Or if they would like to rewrite our Christmas tradition once more. I hope not, but one of the greatest gifts I have been given is freedom to be myself, and I hope that is one I can share with these children of mine.
Whatever you are doing today, however you choose to celebrate (or not) I hope you are able to have yourself a merry little Christmas.