It’s the 12th Day of Christmas, Epiphany, Three King’s Day, Little Christmas. In Ireland, it’s Nollaig na mBan, or Women’s Christmas, which means that all the women get to go out and have fun while the men stay home and do all the chores (theoretically).
January 6th signals the official end of the Christmas holidays. It’s time to take down the twinkly lights and sparkly decorations and head into the long, dark months of the real winter season before spring sputters into gear sometime around April. Sigh.
Somewhat unexpectedly, this Christmas wound up being great fun. Jeremy and I were originally supposed to spend the holidays in Ireland. But since the Home Office is taking its own sweet time in processing my application for permanent residence (a procedure which involves taking my passport, shoving it into a folder in Croydon and letting it sit there indefinitely, thus preventing me from traveling), we found ourselves “stuck” at home to spend our first Christmas even in Brighton.
Christmas is a very family-oriented holiday for me. I’m completely uncynical about the entire season; I love the lights and trees and wreaths, I love the carols and the mulled wine, I love being able to do nothing but eat and watch TV for days on end, I love the build-up to the “big day”, and I love participating in the familial rites and rituals that shape the holiday.
Jeremy and I have always spent alternating Christmases either with my family in Arizona or Jeremy’s family in Ireland, and both Ireland and Arizona have always seemed like havens of holiday spirit compared to Brighton, which has never really felt up to snuff when it comes to Christmas cheer. So I was pretty distraught when it became clear that I wasn’t going to get my passport back in time to go to Cobh for the holidays - both because I knew Jeremy’s mom would be terribly disappointed, and because I really didn’t fancy spending Christmas here.
As it turned out, though, we had a wonderful time. I threw myself whole-heartedly into “Christmasifying” our flat and planning all the yummy things we would eat over the holidays. Two very good friends of ours from Germany came over on the 23rd, we all went to a wonderful dinner party hosted by friends from Brighton on the 24th. We spent Christmas Day and Boxing Day at home with our German friends and another friend from Brighton. In true Brightonian style, it was a very “chilled” affair, with chit-chat, party games, tunes on the iPod and cups overflowing.
This Christmas was kitchen gadget-astic: Jeremy and I are now the proud owners of a microwave, loads of gorgeous Le Creuset stoneware and an absolutely luscious espresso machine. I spent days on end in the kitchen playing with all this stuff, which was heaven for me. I made mince pies for Christmas Eve; a giant roast chicken, vegetables and a double-chocolate cherry cake for Christmas; and Belgian beef and ale stew (for the carnivores) and winter vegetable pie (for the veggie) for Boxing Day. I never did use the mulled wine spices I bought, but we went through lots of port, whisky, Bailey’s, wine, beer, espresso and tea. We also plowed through a considerable amount of cheese, peanuts and pretzels as we played poker until four in the morning on Christmas.
Jeremy’s mom came over for New Year’s, and the feasting continued while she was here. The weather wasn’t terrific (lots of wind and rain), but we still managed to hit the charity shops and brave the crowds in town for a little post-Christmas window shopping. When it was too dismal to be outside, we hunkered down in front of our new TV, a lovely flat-screen digital jobbie bought to replace the miniscule box we’ve lived with for the past six years. Jeremy treated his mom and me to a fabulous multi-course New Year’s Eve dinner at One Paston Place, and then we came home to toast in the New Year with a drop of a Bailey’s and fireworks in London (viewed on the BBC from the comfort of our couch).
So now the fun is over. Everyone is back in their respective homes, there are no more Christmas carols blasting from the shops and no more lights in the windows, no more holiday meals to plan and no more excuses for gorging on snacks while channel-surfing. Instead, there’s work to do, laundry to do, cleaning to do - and Christmas decorations to put away. I’m trying not to feel too melancholy about it though. After all, if Christmas happened every month, it wouldn’t be very special. And there are plenty of other things to look forward to - like eventually getting my passport back so I can continue my peripatetic existence in the year to come. For now, I’ll enjoy being a homebody and reflect happily on our very merry Christmas.