It's Christmas Eve tomorrow, and over here we're just about ready for Christmas: tomorrow we have to collect the turkey from the butcher and cook the ham, but the decorations are up, the living room smells agreeably of tree, the cupboards are full of yummy things. All my Christmas shopping is done, presents wrapped and round the tree with most of the rest of the family's, and I've had a good feel and shake of most of them.
I love this time of year: I love winter, and I love Christmas. I'm glad I live in the Northern hemisphere, because both those things come at the same time. I love the crisp smell of winter air, the stark silhouettes of leafless trees. I love snow: fat flakes falling, settling into a bright white blanket over the world, with all the lines softened. I especially love finding a fresh smooth patch of snow and being the first one to make footprints in it.
I love the festive decorations, the food, the giving and receiving of gifts.
I love that, in my belief, Jesus came to Earth for our sakes, and I also love that Christmas is a national holiday where I live, so everyone, Christian or not, can join in the joy and goodwill.
I love mince pies. We made them today, my Mum gave us a hand with the pastry, which she is very good at - my Great Great Aunt Flossie's recipe for flaky pastry. I don't understand why so many people prefer sweet shortcrust pastry around their mincemeat, but each to his own. My younger brother, Nick, and I have a system fairly established for the pies, getting a little production line going: he's handy with a rolling pin, and I prefer putting them together.
I love Christmas trees: if you have a real one, it makes the room smell like Christmas, and the sparkle and colour is heartwarming. Although it can be a stressful old business decorating one! When my brothers and I were small, we just loved it. We wanted to put as much on as we could, but between keeping us safe - making sure none of us pulled the tree over on top of us, keeping us restrained until the electrical component was safely put on by my dad, supervising the hanging of glass baubles - and trying to stop us eating all the chocolates that we sometimes used to hang on the tree, and of course putting up with a tree that was decorated only on the lower branches, it must have been harder for our parents.
Now the decoration is my job. We get the tree in and properly positioned: straight, the best side facing forwards. The lights this year were impossibly tangled, although only one bulb didn't work, and we have parallel-wired lights. Lights, tinsel and bead strings have to go on, and there's always slightly too much or too little for the number of rows, which means endless adjustment to make it look right, and every change pulls a few more needles off. Then the individual decorations, which not only have to be appropriately spread out, but Mum's favourite has to be in a prominent enough position, Nick's favourites have to be left for him to put on, along with the star on top, which I can't reach. The cat's favourites mustn't be on the bottom branches. She's a sweetheart though, and apart from a couple of swipes at certain, apparently irresistible toys in past years has never bothered the tree at all.
Then there's gold-sprayed twigs to be arranged in vases, and venturing out into the freezing night to hang the wreath on the door.
But I love it.
I love lying on my stomach under the tree, examining all the presents. I will not accept that I'm not supposed to feel them all before the day. That's part of the joy of Christmas: it just adds to the anticipation, between the ones you can guess - and waiting to see if you're right, and the ones you can't.
There's lots more that I love, but this is heading for tl;dr, so I'll sign off now.
This will probably be my last Christmas related post. It seems that Christmas time, Christmas Day most of all, is a bad time to be on the internet, since everyone else has either disappeared, or is only posting about Christmas. I've promised elsewhere, and I repeat that promise here, to post an update not about Christmas, on Christmas Day. Unless I think of something to say tomorrow, goodbye until then and a very happy holiday to you all: wishing peace, goodwill, and joy to all men, women, children, animals, sentient plants, intelligent machines and visiting extra-terrestrials.