As part of the Giftmas Blog Tour, I’m contributing two posts: one about my real life experiences of Christmas and the other about how the festive season features in my writing. This is real life Christmas, past and present.
I grew up in London in the United Kingdom. As a fairly typical (whatever that means) non-church-going family we celebrated Christmas, but as a festive holiday, rather than a religious festival. I had friends who saw Christmas as a religious event, first and foremost, and spent much of it in church and others who did not celebrate it at all for equally religious reasons. That was fine. North West London, as I experienced it, was a tolerant and accepting place.
I’m an only child, so my Christmases were relatively quiet compared to those of friends who had siblings. Nevertheless, we always had a real Christmas tree surrounded by seductively wrapped presents, the house was covered in Christmas cards and decorations, and friends and family called round for some or most of the holiday. Mouth-watering food was provided by my mother who was, and is, a wonderful cook and there was always something suitably festive to drink. My memories of childhood Christmases are invariably bathed in the glow of frosted, Christmas tree fairy-lights and the shimmering of tinsel in the reflected flames of a coal fire. It may be worth pointing out, however, that the coal fire was not a festive addition. It was the way we heated our house in winter. We did not have central heating. Indeed, my octogenarian mother still lives in the terraced house I grew up in and it still doesn’t have central heating.
Christmas traditions inevitably modified and changed as I grew up. They accommodated boyfriends, my own home, partner, in-laws, departure of said partner and ageing parents. Mostly they were enjoyable, but I shall skip rapidly over the year I went down with full-blown flu on Christmas Eve, resulting in the postponement of Christmas and the cat almost stealing the turkey, or the Christmas night I ended up with both parents in separate wards of Central Middlesex Hospital. Then again, whilst growing up, I had a serious bout of measles at Christmastime. It’s not all rosy glow of firelight and Christmas tree fairy-lights.
These days my widowed mother leaves London to come to stay with me for the Christmas period and we are joined by friends for the traditional Christmas meal, or we travel out to visit and dine with them. The run-up to Christmas is therefore hectic with house cleaning and festive decorating, food and present shopping and cooking. For me, as a professional writer and amateur musician, December is also full with seasonal poetry readings and carol concerts (I play the French Horn in my village’s band and we are in great demand over Christmas).
I loved Christmas as a child and still enjoy the social side as an adult, but I admit to breathing a sigh of relief when the carol playing, poetry reading, card writing and domestic preparations side of it is over and I can sink back into the holiday to enjoy the peaceful side of things. That’s when I can put my feet up in front of a log fire, turn up the central heating and allow memories of Christmases past to ease their way into my thoughts and my writing, but that, as they say, is a matter for my second blog post of this tour.
J.S.Watts is a British writer. Her poetry, short stories and book reviews appear in a wide variety of publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including Acumen, Mslexia and Popshot and have been broadcast on BBC and Independent Radio. J.S. has been Poetry Reviews Editor for Open Wide Magazine and Poetry Editor for Ethereal Tales. Her debut poetry collection, Cats and Other Myths, is published by Lapwing Publications, as is a subsequent, multi-award nominated poetry pamphlet, Songs of Steelyard Sue. Her novels, A Darker Moon – dark literary fiction and Witchlight – paranormal with a touch of romance, are published in the US and UK by Vagabondage Press. She has a new poetry collection, Years Ago You Coloured Me, due out from Lapwing in 2016. For further details see her website: www.jswatts.co.uk