Christmas Survival: How to enjoy your Christmas when it’s unrecognisable.

Each year our Christmas has been a little different. I don’t have a lot of family close and don’t cope particularly well with the large Christmas gatherings that some families have. My little family has consisted over the years of the children I have fostered and their birth parents and whatever friends or family want to join in. I invite people a lot.

Not everyone copes well with Christmas as we know. For me it has to do with my expectations of Christmas as a family day. My adoptive parents did their best to make it wonderful, with Santa Sacks on the end of the bed (I never questioned why Santa wrapped everything in newspaper or even noticed that he had our local paper) for unwrapping at an ungodly hour, re-wrapping and unwrapping again on the Parents’ bed at a timely hour. This was probably the very best part of Christmas, when they were barely awake and before the squabbling started.

Then there would be breakfast, rushing off to Church where we were always late and consequently had to sit in the front row. This gave me an uninterrupted view of the congregation which was educational in itself. Listening to the interminable sermon before talking with all the kids about what was in the sack. I don’t remember anyone not having a sack or admitting it if they did not. Returning home for Christmas lunch and tree gifts was fraught. The order of handing out always resulted in a battle. I don’t remember it every going smoothly. As a child I had little understanding of the stress my mother was under to get everything ready. I’d much rather disappear and read a book.

My parents also asked lots of people for Christmas. At times it was confusing. I have a range of images of different people in my memory, most of whom were acquaintances, not family. It made for a merry and loud Christmas lunch.
Over the years Christmas has evolved. Children meant the enjoyment of Santa sacks and watching their amazement. In my home, it was a family event to watch the unwrapping and celebrate each surprise uncovered. Youngest Daughter describes it as exciting and awesome, full of joy, food, full tummies, happiness, cheerful, that’s what it was like. First Santa sacks would be opened, then we would have breakfast which the kids made, then when everyone got here we did the presents.

“Everyone” refers to their birth parents who were always included in our celebratory days. One year, when Kevin Rudd gave the bonus $900, there was an ridiculous landslide of gifts. It was overwhelming. The best thing about that day was that both birth mothers were well and happy and really contributed to the day. It was the best we had. Sadly, once has since died from her addictions and the other has succumbed to extremely poor mental health. My ex foster son has left home and entered a twilight zone of the “world done me wrong” song and has cut himself off. My Eldest Daughter is busy with her husband’s families on Christmas day so I have them and my grandson on Boxing Day. That works out well.

Funniest memory for me was my ex foster son finding moustaches in his Santa sack and delightedly trying them all on. I figured it would save me from drawing them daily. Another is Youngest Daughter finding a bright yellow hand bag from Nan Nan (my adoptive mother) and hugging it to her in ecstatic delight, and Eldest Daughter’s shy pleasure at still getting a Santa stocking when she had thought she was too old for it. Most of my glad memories are about their pleasure and playing.

This year my Mum (birth mother) joined us and my brother (adopted) came later. We were the smallest group I have ever had. Because of the changes, Youngest Daughter did not want to put up the Christmas tree. The small fibre optic tree was still pretty. I found it a peaceful day, full of mixed emotions and sad at times but peaceful.

With that, I am content.

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