Thursday, December 28, 2006

Everyone loves their own brand

Christmas is like collective autism. A tight cycle of intricate routines and traditions. It's for family, but not through any particular deep love of its kinship, but because only the family understands the logic paths that have imbedded these traditions into its culture. Nobody likes to be away from their family on Christmas day because, psychologically, it's such an uncomfortable place to go.

Whilst to the outsider these traditions are impenetrable; for those inside they're a norm. I was trying to work out our family's traditional Christmas day, but found it really hard to think of anything I didn't consider to be entirely normal. We get up and open presents, this is the main focus for the day and lasts about 20 minutes. Then we'll have breakfast, usually involving salmon. The rest of the day drifts along towards lunchtime with my dad remembering various food treats he's picked up in the previous few weeks. "Oh, we've got some pear brandy, does anyone want pear brandy?".

This contrasts with Nobby's Germanically regimented Christmas day; bucks fizz for breakfast, stollen cake mid-morning, traditional lunch and card games with the family in the evening. At the other end of the scale, I know of people who sleep in until mid-morning, might have a roast chicken lunch and then dissolve the family unit to allow the individuals to do their own thing for the rest of the day. Presents are unlikely to be anything more than an exchange of cheques.

What with it being Millie's first, Emma and I broke with a tradition and had Christmas lunch together with Emma's family. The close proximity of our families have traditionally meant we've been able to shuttle between the two, but have always stuck to the routine of having lunch apart. This meant I was able to observe their traditional Christmas which after church is an avalanche of present giving punctuated only by a traditional lunch with all the trimmings. Now, I've never previously known what 'all the trimmings' meant. At what point do you know that you have the complete set? We must have been close as excluding the turkey and assorted sauces, there were no less than 16 different trimmings* and I've yet to hear of a Christmas lunch which has more.

You know that you're getting deep into tradition over true value when you're opening a present of a set of second class stamps whilst everyone around you ignores your attempts to be surprised and delighted. Emma got me a Gemini iKey; although I wish I'd asked for a Ninetendo Wii. Emma's grandma was describing what the Wii did as one of her relatives was getting one, Emma's mum looked on blankly until eventually interrupting; 'Is this one of those double-u-one-ones?'

Later in the afternoon we again departed from a Ruffles family tradition and broke the isolation by venturing into the outside world. This tradition was maintained to an extent, I was divorced from broadband for the day, which meant I missed an e-bay auction when it took 14 minutes to download a single page on the household's dial-up connection. So what if the item went at a price some £20 below the ceiling price I'd set myself. I know I know, ebaying on Christmas day... bite me.

Emma's family are very close to two other families on the road and their Christmases have always been closely knitted together. So much so that they can actually spend Christmas together without sullying each others' traditions. They can have a traditional Christmas day regardless of where it's held and who is there; it's like the total football of Christmas day. We popped along the road to find the two families watching a slide show of a holiday they'd taken together back in 1980. To them it was entirely normal, to me, entirely different.

As we get older, children are coming along, grandparents are less mobile, partners expect to see their own families with their own traditions so like a glacier; always moving, but always invisible to the eye the Christmas norms shift. In ten year's time it will all have changed again, who knows where we'll be?

*roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, pommes noisettes, leaks, parsnips, swede, peas, bacon, sausages, cauliflower cheese, onion rings, breadcrumb stuffing, peas, pork stuffing, carrots and brussel sprouts


I thought this was about the smell of your own fart never being as bad as everyone elses so it was a disapointing read, funny but still disapointing.

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