I’ve always felt that the time between Halloween and Christmas is a rather odd one, transitioning from the worlds of ghosts and witches to something as solemn and joyful as Christmas. In Europe, where Advent plays a greater role than Christmas itself, there are at least four weeks to transition into the climax, with all the Christmas markets and festivals in-between. After the pandemic years where we had to content ourselves with celebrating indoors and in small groups, the sudden surge of social events is a bit of a shock to the system. On the other hand, it is wonderful to witness people get dressed up again and socialising, albeit many seem to have forgotten basic social skills along the way. This year, however, we had the peculiar timing of the FIFA World Cup that was scheduled very differently from the previous ones, i.e. a winter championship instead of summer. Then again, very few players would survive the demands of the World Cup in July in Qatar.
Like with every World Cup, life as we know it takes on different dynamics and timeframes from the Knockout Rounds onwards. I’m not a huge football fan (soccer for the North Americans) but I get very involved every four years, and that is pretty much the extent of my fan-girling days! It was supremely strange to have football and Christmas preparations at the same time, but it was what it was, and as the teams got sent home one by one and we were left with Argentina and France, the world came to a frenzied standstill on Sunday, December 18, 2022 as Lionel Messi and Killian Mbappe took the world by storm. Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into an analysis of the game or an evaluation of the teams, but I will say that it was great to have witnessed this particular final, historic as it was, and a shining example of world class football.
But it’s over now, and I would like to move on and focus on Christmas, finally, and not find Argentina, Messi, France, Morocco , Croatia, and the other teams being analysed to death first thing in the morning. All I ask is a return to football-free days with Christmas music, candles, fairy lights and all the trimmings. Please, let’s exchange the round footballs for chocolate spheres instead, truffles, cookies, cakes, bars, chacruterie boards, and everything that should be declared illegal because of their calorie content!
At least living up here in the Shire shields me from the hectic Christmas shopping of the city, the bad-tempered drivers stuck in traffic, and having to elbow your way through crowded stores. Much as I love Christmas and the magic it conjures, all this gift buying is superfluous. Rather than the ubiquitous perfume / clothing / gadgets / and toys, why can’t simply give each other intangibles that mean so much more?
The gift of time, for example. We lead such hectic lives and get caught up with the daily demands of work, that we barely have time for proper conversations anymore. To be able to spend time with people, unhurriedly, and offer the gift of laughter, memories, emotions, and simply catching up. I’d love to be able to uncork a bottle of wine, slice into the meal, savour the flavours of the food, and top it all off with that peaceful acceptance of being in a place where you truly want to be, that you are meant to be, and knowing that no matter what, you are grateful for the food on the table, the roof over your head, the hand you can reach out and touch, and the eyes that look back at you with understanding. That is all I really want for Christmas this year.