Christmas 2004

Maybe it's because I'm so self centered; self absorbed. It's all about me 24/7. right? So I don't really get all upset about the commercialism Christmas. [Valentine's Day, Easter and Halloween are another matter entirely but will not be mentioned here, at this time.] I am so busy thinking of myself, more focused on internal thoughts, and details and organisation (I guess that makes me part of the problem not part of the solution) and most importantly, how to buy the most love in the least amount of time from people I want to love me back. [okay that's not entirely true but I'd really like them to like me, you know? and sweetening the pot with a thoughtful gift never hurts]

Sure, I hate crowded anythings, and shopping centres/stores are the *worst*. I hate queuing for anything and being pressed close to washed and unwashed bodies to fork over my hard-earned cash isn't my favourite thing at the best of times. I'm not much of a "window shopper" so I tend to have an idea if not a specific item to purchase and then make a strategic strike in the correct store - in /out/over with method of shopping is what it's all about with me. I mean, I've done it all when it comes to shopping for Christmas from getting gifts done n' dusted in October to shopping for the entire family plus relatives 90 minutes to closing on Christmas Eve so I know many facets of the shopping experience. I have no preference, I just try'n make it as painless as possible.

I think there's another reason I don't get all bitter and twisted over the money vs. christmas thing. It's because I love Christmas Day. And more than that, I love the way my family celebrates this time of year.

Our family gathers wherever is most convienient for the most of us. Not everyone can always make it. We all work and have differing schedules - this year a few of us were lucky enough to go to Kristy and Mark's place in Rotorua. Mark had to work Boxing Day so it made the most sense. Kristy is a Christmas *nut*. She's always loved christmas. Not in the "wreath on the door" kind of way - but in a real tree, home-made decorations, lots-of-coffee-and-fudge, kind of way. Homely, you know? cool and inviting, relaxing and loving. We don't rush about, we don't have very many visitors. There's no stress with the meal because those who love to cook do so, and those who don't, drink and do dishes.

Our Christmas Day usually starts with Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. I don't go to church during the year but I love going for " a good sing " on Christmas Eve. Pat and I went to St Michael's and honestly, if i wasn't going to Hell before Christmas, I am now. The Midnight Mass sucked. Normally, a parish'll deck the church with candles and flowers but it seemed that St Michael's in Rotorua had forgotten to order in the Christmas cheer because no one had seemed to bother decorating the church or making any festive attempt whatsoever. Then the organist took every song and halved it's beat and lifted it's key so as to drain every drop of joy from classic hymns. To smack the final life out of Christ's birth from the service, the priest kept losing his place droned on as if it was some dismal chant he'd tired of 20 years ago.

I managed to giggle, complain, make fun of and drift of with detailed-sexual-fantasies for the entire service. [it's the giggling-in-church that'll land me in Hell, just wait and see] We should have jumped back into the car and cruised other parishes for the most happening service but alas, we sat in the freezing cold church and now I have experienced of the Worst Midnight Mass Ever. But the Mass, like everything time has anything to do with, came to pass and we could go home and have a cup of tea and discuss the faults of the service before a) going to bed and b) staying up too late writing a long rambling email. (Pat the former; me the later)

After far-too-few hours sleep, the lounge filled with excited children [not too many and some not so little] and we exchanged gifts on Christmas morning - still dressed in our pyjamas with pots of freshly brewed coffee and with no form or process, gifts were handed out and their wrappings ripped off revealing scrumptious condiments and wine and various groovy toys and things we'd chosen for each other. The presents are thoughtful, inexpensive gifts. We're all pretty good at picking items that are welcomed and loved.

This Christmas, after the gift and giving part, Kristy made a stack of pancakes. My bed for my stay was the couch in the living room which was now full of people and wrapping paper and so I wandered off to find an unoccupied bed to finish off my sleeping and forgo the pancake fiesta in the kitchen. Though I hear from my resisdent pancake experts it was the "best ever".

Easing into noon with dishes being completed for lunch, a clutch of tables and chairs start being pulled together outside on the grass. Christmas Day in Rotorua was overcast with patches of sunshine we exploited happily. A small buffet of ham, couscous and roast vegetables, asparagus, salads and potatoes, meatballs and cooled dry white wine were spread out in the dining room and we filled our plates and ate outside. We talked, and teased, and laughed and ate. Not too much food but just enough so desserts of tiramisu, trifle and berry flan with softly whipped fresh cream would still fit into our increasingly sleepy bellies.

The afternoon saw the alcohol consumption lessen and phone calls to relatives who lived too far away made, followed by the appearance of the boardgames and packs of cards. We like nothing better than playing Balderdash or a hand of Arsehole around the dining room table. Shrieks of laughter especially from my excitable sister Jo who managed to set the dog off barking more than a few times with her yelling "SET!!" with a new card game picked up from Whitcoulls.

Dinner is leftover lunch and television for some, naps for others, games for most.

This is a typical Lawlor Christmas.

I've spent the last few alone and they've been okay - I really don't mind being alone for Christmas so much. But I absolutely love being with my family for Christmas. I appreciate having an opportunity to give gifts to people I love. To spend time with my most favourite people on the planet. To share a meal, and words, and laughter with some of the best people I know is what Christmas is about for me. Outside weddings and funerals, family gatherings don't happen so much. We don't gather for family meals on Sundays or all go on holiday anymore the way we used to when I was a small child. How fantastic we can get together and make each other laugh and feel close.

Thank you to my family and a dear friend, who made this Christmas extra special.

Christmas 2004, Rotorua - Pat and Chris

PS: A dear friend of mine who has increasingly disliked the commercialism of Christmas came up with a solution this year: she and her family donated the money they *would* have spent on gifts for each other to the TEAR fund. Now, that's a nice solution to reinforcing the reason-for-the-season. You don't have to be Oprah to do something.