I love Christmas. Actually, I love Christmas dinner. More than the presents actually. The people crammed around the table, the food piled so high it doesn’t actually all fit on the table, the conversation and shared delight. All toasty warm while outside it is cold and dark and maybe even a little windy. Maybe that’s why our family does Christmas dinner three times. But doing all these Christmas dinners has taught me a few lessons. And I’m determined to remember them this year.
I’m going to remember how it all started. And for me, that was back in South Africa. My mum taught me what a feast looks like – the loads of food pied up so that people just look at it and say “wow”. She also taught me to learn from the experiences – so her later feasts had just as much wow, but a lot less hassle in their presentation. I had other friends to teach me what hospitality looks like. I had friends who fed us waffles after church every Sunday night (I think there were 13 of us and a waffle maker that made 4 waffles at a time). I learnt it wasn’t always about what you offered, but how you offered it. They moved to Australia. There are days I still miss them. Then there were the friends that opened their home and their hearts to us, giving out of what they had because… well, that was the beautiful thing. We certainly couldn’t ever repay them, but they were passing on the blessings, and the lessons, they had received in their own lives. They threw a “nearly 30” party for me because I left South Africa when I was 29, and they wanted to mark that significant event. It meant that on my actual 30th birthday, when I felt more than little lonely, I could remember, and know that they still carried me in their hearts. I miss them, but every time I open my home, I say a little prayer for them, because I am passing on the blessing too.
By the way, all those people mentioned above, you can come visit any time you want.
But back to Christmas. Last year, my two Christmas dinners at home came as I was recovering from pneumonia, so I was too grumpy to enjoy the one away from home. Plus three full on Christmas dinners? It’s a bit much to organise all by yourself. So this year Christmas 1 with The Gang is going to be part organised by The Gang. I’m doing the bits I like. The turkey. The trimmings. The Super-secret theme (Big Kids). Other people can do the vegetables, and the puddings. And no starters by mutual consent. Or actually, a starter that is about 2 hours before the main event. (They’re arriving at 1, eating at 3 – I won’t survive that long without food.) And each family brings a gift for another family, so no panic there then (and yes, I’m nearly sorted on that one too! I can’t believe how organised I am.)
Then Christmas 2, with family friends (mum, you’re family and friend, that’s why you come). This one doesn’t have so many children, and it has people who are a bit more used to working with me. Cue long telephone discussions about colour schemes and decorations. And a large portion of the meal will be purchased pre-prepared and only need to be bunged in the oven. Decadent, festive, a little bit exhausting but oh so much fun.
So Christmas 3, on Christmas Day, can be about having a relaxed time with the family, opening presents, eating a nice dinner while wearing a funny hat and working out what to do with the leftovers.
So this year, I am doing the preparations for 1 Christmas dinner, but getting 3 Christmas dinners experiences out of it. Bargain!