If there’s one thing that COVID has taught us, it’s to reflect on what brings us joy. For many of us, forced periods of lockdown, the disruption to our normal routine has forced us to take time to reassess the way we live our lives. Am I happy? Not just is this ‘thing’ sparking joy in my life – although I did plenty of that (decluttering really does bring me joy) – but am I on the right path?
In the absence of making plans, people have been able to stop and reflect before making new plans; often changing direction as if reassessing the direction of the wind. New decisions made. The selling and buying of homes. Moving interstate (once permitted). Changing careers. Expanding their families – ‘There’s no social distancing going on here!’ one of my girlfriends declared after revealing news of her pregnancy. The silver linings of what has been a pretty shitty year.
So when I think about Christmas, the rush, the chaos of it all; I wonder, is this also a time to reflect and reassess? Because there seem to be several deeply rooted practices – at least, in our household – Christmas traditions, that have us working in overdrive.
We raise a freshly cut Christmas tree with an inevitably crooked trunk onto a stand with no greater ease than assembling a cot. Then wrestle with a string of tangled lights, hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree with care; only so the toddler can literally hop on their trike and yank them off – one girlfriend, also a mother of a toddler, calls this the ‘Drive-thru.’ The entire lower section of our tree has been ‘de-baubled.’
Passed on from generation to generation, we unwittingly accept the near-impossible situation in which all crucial Christmas Eve activities must be conducted in private, away from children. (Despite the reality of living with young children meaning that, rarely, do we experience said ‘privacy’ in the bathroom or any other space). And instead of electing small, achievable tasks, we stand in the back yard, dangerously close to little prying eyes, with all the parts and pieces necessary to construct a trampoline facing more pressure to deliver than Jack Bauer on 24.
And even if we are organised ahead of time, evidenced by the Tetris stack of online shopping lining our entryway, wardrobe or shed; even if we have already endured the production line of wrapping gifts that makes ‘elving’ feel more like working in a sweatshop; even if we imagine that the elaborate Christmas Day feast may be assembled with ease, despite the day’s competing demands and the Australian Summer heat; it seems, we are still a glutton for punishment.
Why, oh why, would one actually volunteer to oversee the nightly ritual of elf relocation, adding to the already long, seemingly unachievable list of Christmas chores? Only yesterday, I entered the boys’ room bleary-eyed, forgetting the positioning of the elf as I yanked back the blind, sending the elf flying as the morning light flooded in. A situation of crisis as the seven year old yelled, ‘Stand back! Nobody touch him!’ In a state of pandemonium, an emergency risk management plan was swiftly enacted by our seven year old in order to keep the elf’s magic intact. A very close call, indeed.
Now, upon reflection, I realise my list of grievances seem rather petty. If fortunate enough for Christmas to reflect a happy time of year, then the aforementioned preparations are of little concern. We do these things because it isn’t Christmas until the smell of pine fills the air. Because there’s nothing as joyful as seeing a child delighting in the wonder of Christmas. Because their magic is our magic.