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Coming down the road I saw that Cunningham’s had their Christmas lights on, the first I’ve seen this year. It made me think of what Christmas 2009 will mean to me. Christmas 2009 will be celebrated in a time of economic recession, which I expect means less money to spend or indeed no spare money at all.
I never thought of recession and Christmas as a couplet. There was always extra spending at Christmas, presents to buy and a turkey and ham to purchase. To allow for this extra spending a little was put by weekly or a top up was arranged from the Credit Union. Little by little in the weeks preceding Christmas you would replenish the stocks so that there was no major outlay that you couldn’t cope with. Christmas Toy Clubs were a Godsend, Cormacks in Lucan Village was the proprietor of one such club and an Aladdin’s cave of treasures, and where a pound or two spirited away each week meant a nice tidy sum built up by the time Christmas came round.
Plans were laid with lists being a necessity. There was the Christmas card list, The Murphys, The Kennys, The Doyles all followed by the many dear friends and neighbours we send greetings to religiously each year. Then there was the present list, the clothes list, the food list and the “to do” list, quite a few lists but nothing too daunting. Purchases to be made with a careful eye on price tags and making good use of the thrifty ways I learnt from my Mother. Tasks carried out with a diligence and pleasure knowing that the end result would add to the magic of Christmas. The “making the Christmas pudding” ceremony, the purchase of the Christmas tree, when Father and children would go to the fruit & veg market on Tandys Lane and arrive home carrying a tall green fir tree shoulder high, the tree would then be placed in a bucket, its trunk secured by coal and stones so that it stood tall waiting to be dressed, hanging the Christmas decorations and placing of the Crib and its figures were all conducted in a heightened anticipation of the excitement ahead. Late nights spent knitting jumpers and geansaís needed for Christmas day was never a penance but added to the sense of occasion.
The “to do” list was a Christmas Eve list that delegated tasks to each and every member of the household. Dusting & polishing, changing beds, hoovering, the dreaded ironing, (I always think that if finances allowed I would pay someone to do the ironing), shoe shining and making the stuffing all listed in clinical order and the name of the person assigned the task rostered alongside. The “to do” list was a great way of occupying children who were so excited thinking about what might be left under the tree for them from You Know Who.
There was also the magic of the radio when Santa’s voice would boom out that “Marian , Ciarán, Aoife, Mark and Peter and Colin, Ann and John and Tracey, Sylvia, Ian and Nicola” were all good children, sure he knew well that they did their best all year long. Santa Claus was definitely no fool was the considered opinion of the Murphy, Costello and Conlon children. Then a look out at the night sky to see who would spot, in the light of the moon, Santa’s sleigh pulled by his beloved reindeer starting out on his whistle stop worldwide tour. Next to bed, after ensuring the socks were hanging up and the carrot and cake were waiting for the expected night time visitors. Indeed it was more often than not the children asking to go to bed themselves, a somewhat unusual occurrence for the Murphy children, mind you sleep did elude them for a while but irrespective of an unspoken intention to stay awake to take a peek at Santa sleep did creep up on them and ferry them away into the land of nod.
That was and remains my favourite time. A stillness in the air, our home spic and span, the red candle lighting in the window continuing the age old Irish tradition of welcome for travellers on the road, the Christmas tree lights creating a glow and the baby Jesus resting in the manger.
Will 2009 be different from Christmas’ past? Will this recession be as Scrooge is to Dickens Christmas Carol? Maybe it will be leaner than the Christmas’ of the Tiger era, but then again maybe that’s no harm; maybe the true values of Christmas will shine through. Maybe the harshness of the recession, the job losses, and the floods will reawaken our sense of community and isolate the individual nature of the Tiger era which bred selfishness in people where want became their master.
May Christmas 2009 rekindle our sense of community, may we watch out for our families, friends and neighbours, may peace and harmony reign. May my family and friends continue to delight in my love and laughter and may Christmas 2009 replenish our spirit for 2010.