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And so it begins...

Halloween is past. Bonfire Night gets ignored in the Brown household because the kids and cats don’t like it. That means Christmas is coming.

Come on now, you can’t have missed it. The adverts are popping up on TV, the newspapers are full of dire stories about how you won’t be able to afford to buy anything even if it makes it into the shops and for the half million immunosuppressed partying and relative visiting isn’t going to be an option this year either. All doom and gloom right?

I don’t think so, and I’d like to explain why. It’s now ten years since my ‘complicated’ son was diagnosed with epilepsy and we realised that the seizures were brought on by stress. He had the full tonic-clonic sort and had a high risk of sudden unexplained death from epilepsy, so the advice was to reduce stress as much as possible.

Yeah, right. A stress-free Christmas? Not gonna happen, but things had to change, so we stopped seeing the relatives all at once and started seeing them a few at a time in November and December. As much shopping as possible changed to online, and we went and did the Christmassy stuff as soon as it opened so that it was as quiet as possible.

By December the sixth, when the rest of the world was starting to panic and everywhere felt stressy to him, we were ready for our new ritual. Snuggle in time. Quilts to curl up under. Old movies to watch with handmade popcorn. Eating our favourite food, talking about memories, going for walks while everyone else hit the shops. Nothing big, fancy or expensive. In fact, the most expensive thing was buying a bread maker and some cookery stuff and everyone had a really good laugh at my gingerbread house. (Okay, okay, I got my fairy stories crossed. My house looked more like the first little piggies did after the wolf huffed and puffed but I’m getting quite good at them now.)

But you know what? It was a wonderful, wonderful time, and as he grew out of his epilepsy and I tried suggesting that we went back to the old ways, no one wanted to change. Because, at the risk of sounding icky, we’d learned that Christmas wasn’t about spending money or rushing round like a headless chicken. It was, and is, a time to remember what we’re celebrating. A baby, born in a manger to a family that not only wasn’t rich but rapidly became refugees. A fresh start and a new hope and above all, love and all the forgiveness you’ll ever need.

This year won’t be easy for a lot of people, any more than that year was for us, but I really hope that as people strip away the conspicuous spending they’ll make the same discovery that I did. All I wanted then for Christmas was my son to stay alive. All those years later, all I want for Christmas is for my family to be together and well; and, God willing, they will be.

So my planning season begins, with old films and new friends, old recipes and new ones to try. Books to read, sewing to enjoy and as little rushing around as I can get away with! What will your Christmas look like?


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