As kids there was nothing more magical or exciting than Christmas, well actually the run up to Christmas. Me and my younger brother loved it. We tried to race through the days wanting to and believing that the earlier we went to the bed the sooner Christmas would be upon us. I’m pretty sure my mother also encouraged this belief for some reason. We’d shock our parents by declining biscuits in the evening and only drinking our milk so that we could brush our teeth faster and get into bed even faster. There was clearly some sound logic to the process but as we, somewhat, matured we came up with new and more entertaining ways to fulfil our evenings in the run up to Christmas, much to my parents displeasure I can imagine, the Christmas movie countdown marathon.
From the first of December till Christmas Eve every evening we would watch a Christmas movie or one at least appropriately themed. Finally delving into that large portion of the VHS and DVD collections that has been under a strict ban, a ban only lifted with the beginning of the festive season. Twenty four evenings, twenty four Christmas movies perfectly curated and sourced; The Grinch who stole Christmas, The Santa Clause (which for many years consequently caused me to misspell Santa Claus), The Polar Express, A Nightmare Before Christmas, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone 1 & 2, Elf, Edward Scissorhands, Snow Dogs, Scrooged, A Muppets Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street, just to name but a handful of the movies we had out at our disposal and many flat out holiday classics in their own right. Of course to bolster and vary the viewing experience we watched a fair number of festive duds from Santa Who?, Santa Claus: The Movie and the never ending plethora of sequels of such movies as The Santa Clause or variations on a Christmas Carol. Looking back it was a monumental and regimented undertaking of calculating bed times and of when dinner would be finished or dad would be home against the run time of the film and any chores or duties needed doing. With either one of us taking on the others clearing up duties so that they could shower or bathe first and then they could do their homework while the other showered or whatever. Everything was mapped out and planned right down to the finest details including toilet and snack breaks. It was no game.
The only draw back though was that when Christmas hit and with it the proceeding days of family time and festivities me and my younger brother had rinsed nearly the full catalogue of seasonal treats. So when the family wished to sit down to watch a movie together we were hard pressed to find anything suitable to watch, which is a hard enough task at any time of the year, but with me and my brother having so drastically reduced the choices and with seasonal-joy fatigue settling in it had become near impossible. So over the years the system was refined, diluted and perfected to our own personal 12 days of Christmas before Christmas. With it though also came the slipping importance and joy of the occasion. For countless years we had hard drilled ourselves into the regiment but then life began to get in the way. I’m not talking big drastic changes, I’m not even talking socialising it would be years before that became even remotely a thing but we got part-time jobs, school work became more serious (that was a hard one to come to terms with) and our interests broadened. Just things that were never going to go away but instead just snowball and snowball for such is life, sadly. We no longer rushed our dinners, we no longer worked together to minimise time scales, we gave up on trying to cram in as much festive cheer as we could. The sleigh bell began to lose its ring, its sweet chimes began to fade.
As a child and even in my later years I vowed I would never lose the spirit of Christmas, that I would never let the magic fade. I swore to ever believe in and love the idea of Christmas. Ignorant to anyone who told me otherwise but with each year that hurries by the inevitable continues to strike and so my delight and love shortens and shortens. Christmas has gone from being a 31 day event to something akin to a week. I still love it but now it is more for being with the family, of escaping work and city life and to revel in our own comforts. I’ll forever remember those younger years fondly and how we were happy to watch the same films year in and year out and for one month a year me and my brother being in complete harmony, again much to my mothers joy no doubt. Now though Christmas is just as special if shorter and I feel as if I am taking on new traditions and adopting those of others, the advent calendar has become more symbolic, the Christmas shopping more frantic but for the last few years or so on or as close as to the first of December my girlfriend and I have exchanged advents and sat down and watched Elf. I love witnessing the lights going up, as the pavement in its sleek freezing wetness bounces and distorts the hundreds of tiny blinking lights above. As the cold whips around you and through the air on a random shop corner as the heaters blow as if about to burst you hear those familiar notes of I wish you a Merry Christmas. It still has an undeniable effect, a charm all to its own. Yes the festivities may be growing shorter but they are as still as joyous and sweet as ever.