I don’t look forward to Christmas. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I dread it, but it looms on the horizon like a small malevolence – somewhere between weeding the garden and root canal.
I can’t remember when this antipathy started, but it seems to go back to childhood. I suppose reactions are tempered by early experience – and whether your Christmas presents tended towards new bikes or new knickers.
My British Nana insisted that we ate Christmas lunch dressed in our stiff and formal Sunday best, facing an array of roasts, Christmas pudding, Christmas cake, dried fruit, nuts and mince pies – in Hawke’s Bay heat that could melt the asphalt on the roads. After lunch the men would rush to discard their suits for shorts and singlets and do mysterious things under car bonnets – headless bodies apparently being devoured by engines. The women, having spent the morning preparing lunch, spent a good part of the afternoon washing up and then preparing the leftovers for dinner.
Christmas was about the only time our family ever took a drink. Needless to say, a glass-and-a-half was all it took for euphoria to set in, quickly followed by the revival of decades-old feuds and resentments.
So when I joined the NZBC’s announcing staff in my late teens and discovered that the young and unattached were expected to cover Christmas Day shifts and release the married and encumbered into the bosoms of their families, colleagues got trampled in my rush to volunteer.
Christmas Day broadcasting had the dual effect of feeding the inner martyr and being a perfect excuse to escape from family gatherings. The peace and stillness of Broadcasting House was broken only by Reception ringing to report the delivery of yet another pile of edible goodies for the poor souls working while the world was celebrating. The announcers on ZB and ZM were tasked with fulsomely thanking the donors – which would set off the next round of offerings to be shared around. It was equally good down at the television studio, with an even better selection of celebratory fare arriving at the doors. Wine (strictly forbidden) was sipped in coffee cups. Safe enough. There wasn’t a boss to be seen. Now this was a Christmas to enjoy!
So when Brian and I decided to volunteer at the Auckland City Mission’s Christmas Day lunch last year, to me it almost felt like coming home. No peace and damn-all stillness, but more than compensated for by the pleasure of watching lonely people having a good meal and a great time. This was followed by the joy of putting our feet up and collapsing for the rest of the day with a bottle of wine and a clear conscience.
We’ll be down at the Events Centre again this year, and the City Missioner has asked for help in raising funds to feed the couple of thousand people who will turn up. It costs only about $10 a head. If you’d like to sponsor a meal or two, click on the link below to our fundraising page. If nothing else, you’ll enjoy the photo of Brian masquerading as a Christmas elf!
And if there aren’t many posts from either of us for the next week or so, it’s just because we’re both suffering from a serious case of Bah Humbug.
Commentator and media trainer Judy Callingham blogs at Brian Edwards Media.