It has been a fairly quiet time in the woods this month. However, two surprising things have happened. The first is that I have finally put away all of our clothes that have been piling up on the floor since the beginning of June. We have been living out of bags for as long as I can remember, as we always had another trip planned just around the corner there wasn't much point in unpacking. But now we are settled back at home we are getting organised and I have finally found the bedroom floor. Hooray! The second (even more surprising than my tidying) is that I am feeling festive. And it's not even December yet!
I am not normally someone who gets overly excited about the big 'C' word. Don't get me wrong, I love the actual event; Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. I love slowing down, spending time with family and friends, sharing good food, exchanging gifts. It is a magic and special time. But I hate the run up to it, I physically shudder every time I walk past a Christmas display or hear a Christmas song in the weeks running up to it. My tree and decorations would not go up until the final week, normally when we celebrate the Winter Solstice on or around 21st December. I am not someone who counts down the days, wears Christmas jumpers (willingly!) or even thinks about Christmas shopping before December. Yet as I sit here writing on the last day of November I can actually confess to having already bought four new Christmas decorations, a pack of Christmas cards and a roll of wrapping paper from Oxfam. I have flicked through magazines looking at festive food and how to make your own wreath. I have bought a Christmas jumper for Oak. It has brussel sprouts wearing Christmas hats on the front of it. It was at this point I started to get worried. Why this strange and sudden love of all things festive? I haven't been visited by the ghost of Christmas past or been hit on the head by the Christmas fairy or even drunk too much sloe gin. I definitely haven't watched the John Lewis advert. Then I realised; I have simply become a parent.
Last year was tough. It was our first Christmas without Mum and I dreaded it. If I could have I would have jumped on the first plane to somewhere far away and hot where they don't celebrate Christmas and stayed there until it was all over. However, I was going to be 37 weeks pregnant by Christmas so that wasn't an option. I was just going to sit around feeling heavy and wait for the baby to arrive. As it actually turned out I had a ten week old baby in special care by the time Christmas arrived. Oak was due to stay in hospital until his due date on 14th January, however as he was doing so well there was every chance he could come out before. But with a premature baby every day is different and even just picking up a small cold could set them back again. I was fully prepared to be spending Christmas in hospital but suddenly things started to progress quicker than we could have imagined and we were finally discharged, much to our surprise, on 22nd December. Ever the organised parents we found ourselves rushing round the shops three days before Christmas trying to buy a car seat. Leaving hospital was emotional. We spent Christmas and New year with my family. We gave Oak a book of promises as a present. We had got used to having nurses, machines and 24 hour support and suddenly we were flying solo. It was a quiet, reflective, beautiful and anxious time.
Now a year on we are all feeling a little less fragile and everything is new and exciting to Oak. For the first time we plan to spend Christmas in the woods. We have never done this before as we have always gone to family. We are going to have a tree, a real tree! Our first year in the yurt I decorated a twig and last year we didn't have anything. I can't wait to get the decorations up and bring the outdoors in. We are planning to cook lamb for Christmas day. It is one that my Mum reared so I know it had a good life. Between our tiny gas oven and a rayburn that isn't quite cut out for cooking I wasn't sure how we would manage a roast dinner for six but luckily (!) Tom and my Dad have come to the rescue and plan to make a Ray Mears/Hugh Fearnley-whats-his-face style underground oven to cook the meat in. What can possibly go wrong?! I have bought some festive looking fabric to make Oak a stocking, which for anyone that knows me is quite ambitious as sewing is not my strong point. I am determined not to give up and get the staple gun out! I am going to bake mince pies, cook my first Christmas dinner and leave a glass of whiskey out for Father Christmas and a carrot for Rudolph on Christmas eve.
Mum was pretty good at doing Christmas and she kept the magic alive. Always. She was the mystery village phone box decorator who tinselled the phone box late on Christmas eve. She once gift wrapped the front door when my sister was working late on Christmas eve. It wasn't all about consuming and spending money, but more about baking, making, creating and sharing. There is a hole that nothing will ever fill, but I feel like the baton has been passed on and now it is my job to keep that magic alive.
It is a time for long blustery winter walks, mulled wine and cosy nights by the fire. It is a time to light candles and celebrate the return of the light. It is a time to be with loved ones, remember those that have gone, carry on family traditions and create new ones. After all of the tragic recent events and sadness that is happening in the world, now, more than ever, it is a time to reflect and to hope. I want to make Oak's Christmas's magic. I want him to grow up feeling certain in an uncertain world. I want him to know gratitude. I want him to have respect for all human beings no matter their race, religion or political views. I want him to feel that he can make a difference, no matter how small. I would also like world peace please.
From this festive little hippy in the woods to all of you – love and peace x