Tenth Night

Image courtesy of James Albright

Christmas (as in “the 12 days of”) doesn’t officially end until Wednesday night, January 5th, but as far as I’m concerned tonight – Tenth Night, if you will – is when the festive season ends in practical terms. (No sign of lords a-leaping here!) The tree has been taken down, and tomorrow morning I will be back in the office. The Eleventh and Twelfth Days of Christmas are, for me and many others, just another working day.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you, as plenty of people I know have been working for at least part of the holiday period. But there is always something bittersweet for me about reaching the end of the Christmas season, as it is the one time of year where I can enjoy an extended period with the family without the pressure of having lots of things to do or places to go.

Pre-kids, Christmases were very different affairs. Traditionally, we would go to my parents on Christmas Eve, gorge ourselves on food for three days, and then drive straight down to Dorset to do the same with Heather’s mum and Allan. Exhausted and considerably heavier, we would then return home the day before New Year’s Eve, when we would go to a party somewhere which would last until the small hours in the way that any party involving a quorum of 20-somethings and copious amounts of booze is wont to do. By the time we woke up the following morning and ventured to a pub for some suitably heavy food to soak up the remaining alcohol, it was pretty much time to go back to work and start detoxing.

Nowadays, as any parent will know, with two young boys life is more regimented and considerably more sedate. Pre-Christmas is all about spending hours wrapping a mountain of toys, which will all be opened in a matter of minutes on Christmas Day, leaving you wondering why you bothered. Late nights and lie-ins become early nights and up-at-some-God-forsaken hour mornings. My family now comes to us, and we just pop down to see Heather’s mum for the day, leaving us much more time to ourselves.

And New Year becomes an entirely more sober – well, less drunken, at least – affair. This year, the highlight of our evening was the all too rare opportunity to play board games and indulge in adult conversation with friends beyond 11pm. (I am happy to report that, despite a five-year hiatus, Heather and I maintained our unbeaten record at Pictionary. Yay, us!) And, of course, the moment the midnight chimes of Big Ben have finished everyone starts shuffling their feet and wondering how early they can go home to bed without appearing impolite.

Again, I’m not complaining. Far from it. The reality of Christmas is very different to how it used to be, but not in a bad way. It’s actually quite gratifying to watch it revolve around the boys, to whom it means so much more than mince pies, eggnog and “did you keep the receipt for that?” (By the way, does anyone still drink eggnog?) And that period of a week or so between the aftermath of Christmas and the return to work – when we have nothing in particular to do other than have fun as a family, see friends and generally deal with each day spontaneously – is lovely. I have spent more time with Toby this week than I would otherwise do in an average month. And I had the free time to take Isaac out on a father/son adventure, which we both loved.

Anyhow, it’s back to reality tomorrow. Only 51 weeks before it all kicks off again …