Christmas can be a painful time for families who like mine are still going through bereavement. But Christmas must go on...
I consider myself lucky as Christmas time has always been magical to my family and I.
As a child, we would celebrate it at my grandparents' house. My grandma, who owned a hair and beauty salon, would work on Christmas Eve, so my sisters and I would make the most of it and get our hair done, paint our nails with glitter and experiment with the make-up testers on display.
While we readied ourselves for the festivities, my grandma would walk her last customer out and close the till before shutting the salon for Christmas. Upstairs, my parents and grandad would prepare the food and dress the table, ready for the festivities. My whole family would get together: uncles, aunties, cousins... and while the adults laughed and chatted around the table, us kids would play all evening until we had to go to bed, incredibly excited ahead of Christmas morning, dreaming about what might be under the Christmas tree when we woke up.On Christmas morning, my grandma would be the first to get up. Quietly making her way to the nativity scene next to the fireplace, she would carefully place an orange along with chocolate treats next to our slippers. At that stage we knew it wouldn't long before it all kicked off!
My grandad then gave the signal. He whistled beautifully and very loudly Rossini's William Tell overture. That was it, the signal that Santa had come, and in no time we would get out of bed and run downstairs, probably as loudly as the horses alluded to in the William Tell tune my granddad whistled.The living room where we had dinner the night before would be completely covered in presents. More presents than you could ever imagine, all nicely placed in little piles so everyone had their own, well demarcated from one another so there could be no confusion about whom each might belong to. Us kids would unwrap it all in no time while uncles, aunties, parents and grandparents would take their time. We would end up playing with the wrapping paper, jumping in it as if the room had become a swimming pool of paper, glitter and bows. The rest of the day would be spent eating, binging on TV, playing with our new presents and eating again, as most families do!
When it became a bit too much for my grandparents, my parents took over and started hosting Christmas at ours. Even if it was the end of an era, the magic was still there. We were still all together enjoying the Christmas tradition as a united family. My granddad's Christmas morning whistling was replaced by traditional Christmas songs (my stepdad can't whistle and he wouldn't have felt right doing it even if he could, as it was our grandpa's Christmas signature) and as the family expanded with partners and then kids, my parents' house would offer rooms for everyone to sleep over.I do not remember the presents I got over the years. But I do remember laughing away stupidly at my cousin slumped on the divan after a few too many glasses of champagne; the time we all started questioning my grandad about his romantic past before he met my grandma (bear in mind he was only 18 when they got together, chances are she was the only woman he ever truly loved); or how much we giggled and shouted when we raced our cracker wind-up toys against each other, transforming the living room into a playground. This was the Christmas magic. These were our own family rituals and traditions that made the whole festive season so special. It was our family's cement; the only time we would all come together: grandparents, parents, uncles, aunties, cousins, grandchildren and soon great-grandchildren.That was until last year.
Until the founder of these traditions passed away on that same Christmas night he loved so much.
Christmas day was still spent together as a family but this time at the hospital at his bedside. And on Christmas night, I finally kissed my dear and so loved granddad goodbye. As my sister put it so well: "there is now 'a before' and 'an after'".
Now without him, the magic of Christmas is gone. And It feels like Christmas has lost its sense.
How you cope with the loss of a loved one at a time of the year that is usually filled with happiness, togetherness and love? I do not have the answer yet and I know that like me, many families are going through bereavement, and that this time of the year makes it even more painful. My heart goes out to them.
As much as I do not know yet how my family and I will cope this Christmas, I know we have a duty to keep the family traditions alive for the children: for my nieces and nephews and for the child I am carrying. We owe it to them to raise them with the same Christmas magic that we had. And ultimately, we owe this to my granddad too. Because we should not remember Christmas as the day he died, but as a day he celebrated and cherished. It is the legacy he left us and we owe it to him to keep it alive. Christmas must go on.
So even if it is painful, even if my heart will be tight and heavy, I will wear my sparkling festive clothes, I will smile, and most importantly, I will do all I can to pass on the Christmas magic to my own little bundle of joy, currently growing inside me. And who knows, maybe this little angel will bring me back the magic...