Like a lot of people, ever so predictably, I love Christmas. I love the food, the smells, the ritual lethargy.
When I was younger, my Nan always stayed with us on Christmas Eve. At around seven the next day, I would wake her up with a timely ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo!’. We would traipse downstairs, en masse, feeling a mixture of jittery anticipation and familiarity.
One year, the highlight of the day was receiving the gift of a tent, which stayed up in the living room for at least a fortnight. I cannot recall it ever going outside, but it did provide a suitable hiding place for my chocolate stash. Another year, it was the walkie-talkie headset that had a range of approximately twenty metres. Phases came and went quickly, a reflection of the childhood crazes of the late nineties and early noughties.
It was the books, however, which continued to surprise and delight me over the festive period. Sometimes there were very specific requests on my part: An atlas, a Children’s Chronicle of the 20th century, Michael Owen’s ‘Soccer Skills’, a science book that posed questions such as: ‘Why don’t penguins feet freeze?’. My aunt and uncle worked for a local publishing house and often gifted us with beautiful collections of classic stories. There would be the odd annual- Blue Peter, for example. For me, therefore, Christmas is synonymous with reading. At which other point of the year can we languish in a merry, bookish stupor? Slipper socks on, snacks on tap. Lovely.
This year, for many people, has felt like a negative version of that period between Christmas and New Year, a strangely disorientating time where routine slips out beneath our feet and a sensation of waiting settles in.
For those who celebrate, Christmas is likely to be very different from previous years. There is uncertainty at best. Rituals that are much-loved- family time, pints on Christmas Eve, work Christmas parties, are all likely to be suspended. As the days shorten and anxieties stretch and lengthen into formless states, we could think about what we want to learn from the current period. What do we want to keep of our old lives and what do we want to discard?
For me, it will be books that see me through. I might not be able to play board games with my nephews, savour my Mum’s legendary roast potatoes, nor moan about watching Mary Poppins for the 26th year in a row, but I can sink into the sofa and read about other places and other times. I can learn, I can discover, and I can relish the words of others. I will gift books and I will be gifted books and for a while, it’ll be like it was in 1998. I’ll sniff the new, clean pages and settle in for an hour or five. And as usual it will go: slipper socks on, snacks on tap. Lovely.
Let us know in the comments how you plan on celebrating Christmas this year. Do you read much over the festive period? If so, tell us your ultimate Christmassy comfort read.
And, of course, if you are struggling for gift ideas and want to send someone something special, check out our bespoke subscription packages for a thoughtful and personal present.