I admit it; I'm a Christmas nut. I don't mean I'm totally undiscriminating.
There are rituals like sending cards that I dumped years back, and re-gifted, re-cycled, home-made and re-directed presents generally take pride of place at our celebrations. Although there was one year when I exclusively gave people cows or ducks for recipients in the majority world when the grateful smiles were a bit forced. Except for our brother-in-law that is. He is a plumber and said that 'his' toilet in an Indian village was the best present he had ever received. But there are some rituals I do love.
We always buy the tree early so we have more days pre-Christmas to wake up to that unmistakable piney fragrance. I know I shouldn't have a live tree but it's one sacrifice I can't quite make, at least not yet.
Over the years the kids and I have always decorated the tree together, amidst lots of disputatious hilarity. The photos taken on the day capture that along with the growing up of family members - them not me. As this is the last time I am likely to have a 'child' left at home to help me, there was a particular bitter sweetness to the experience this year.
As always in pride of place atop our tree is a small bird which started life beautifully coiffed, with impeccable, eminently stroke-able red plumage. However over time it started looking as if it had attended one too many festive season celebration; it was ageing dis-gracefully rather than gracefully. So a few years back Alix decided the time had come for a total make-over.
He carefully painted the bird in Em's bright red nail polish, so that the tatty thinning feathers morphed into a gleaming form-fitting body suit. Eat your heart out John Travolta. Our made-over bird is a disco queen, with eyes raised heavenwards towards the great disco ball in the sky. S/he is always the last ornament we place on the tree and as we do so the band strikes up for one of our family's favourite times of year.
I wish you joy over Christmas if you celebrate it and if you don't, paraphrasing the wonderful John Ralston Saul, President of International PEN: I wish you peace and harmony at the beginning of the Roman calendar's new year.