That was the sobering moment I truly became an adult.
Growing up, Christmas only involves being a ‘Kid Participant’. You do nothing but enjoy the bizarre ride. You wake up, and an elderly, bearded man in a red suit has broken into your home during the night and done a reverse-burglary. He’s left YOU presents. (For us, it was in a pillow case at the end of our beds.) He’s also consumed the milk and cookies you left for him, making sure to leave one cookie only half-bitten as proof of his late-night presence.
We would then head to the living room, where presents under the tree were only allowed to be opened when the adults of the house were awake. For some reason they were always exhausted, having been up late ‘preparing’ things the night before. Didn’t they know it was the night before Christmas? DIDN’T THEY KNOW THEY NEEDED THEIR REST? Idiots.
Adults finally out of bed and presents ripped open, it was time to get dressed in ‘something nice’ as we were to be driven to either our grandma or uncle’s house for Christmas lunch. We would relax in the back of the car, not noticing the horrific traffic, too transfixed by our new toys/pointless crap that we’d forget about in a week to care that being a driver in conditions like that could lead to a stress-related aneurism.
Upon arrival at our lunch destination, we would be spoiled with even more presents, the discarded wrapping paper of which was always mysteriously cleaned up within five minutes, so as not to allow for any wasted present-playing time. It was then that we were – GASP! – expected to amuse ourselves while lunch was finished being prepared. Whatever was going on in the kitchen seemed complicated, given the stressed groans and occasional ‘FUCKING HELL’ that could be heard every ten minutes or so. ‘What could be so hard about making lunch?’ I would think, sprawled out on the couch with my new Goosebumps book.
The meal was always some kind of giant bird, with veggies and gravy, followed by a disgusting but necessary desert known as ‘Christmas Fruitcake’. Not to worry though – it was so inconceivable that we kids would be forced to eat something we didn’t like, that $2 coins were baked into it as an incentive. We were PAID to eat desert.
Meal over and bellies full, we would sleep in the back of the car while being chauffeured home. Meanwhile, a cleanup operation (the likes of which are usually reserved for natural disasters) was taking place back at lunch headquarters, and wouldn’t be finished until well into the night. A night that would see my sister and I cosy in our beds, fast asleep after such a lovely day.
Christmas really was the most wonderful time of the year.
It’s not until you’re a grown up that you realise Christmas doesn’t just ‘happen’. That magical day was pulled together by the incredibly stressed adults in your family who were probably just winging it. At least, that’s what I assume they were doing, because that’s how me and my sisters do it now.
My family history is complicated (whose isn’t), but for a bunch of different reasons, my sisters and I found ourselves in charge of Christmas a few years ago. My older sister has two kids, and much to our surprise, that meant we were no longer considered the Kid Participants of the day. We were The Deciders. The Organisers. The Ones Who Have To Work. That pillow case at the end of the bed? It’s gotta be filled by someone (and how disappointing that Santa doesn’t actually foot the bill for any presents). That lunch has gotta be cooked by someone, the discarded wrapping paper needs to be collected by someone and the whole house needs to cleaned by someone at the end of the day. Oh yeah, and THE WHOLE DAMN THING NEEDS TO BE PAID FOR BY SOMEONE.
Being the wizard behind the curtain on Christmas Day is much less fun. And I truly believe that the moment you become that wizard is the moment you graduate into adulthood.
The true meaning of Christmas… Mariah Carey (post continues after video):
But, it’s not all bad news. Since being in charge, my sisters and I have tried to change how the day works. Because, as many of you will know, being THE DECIDERS may be a chore, but it also means you get to decide. This is where we started to wing it, and develop our own Christmas traditions. Like, we all stay in the one house on Christmas Eve so nobody has to travel in the morning. We open presents IMMEDIATELY, in our pyjamas, because obviously, that’s the funnest part. We then head to Maccas drive-thru for breakfast because everybody likes it, so WHY THE HELL NOT?
Staying in our pjs most of the day, my sisters then tend to cook the lunch because I have zero kitchen-skills (although I do help by, you know, peeling things or whatever). And the lunch? It’s whatever anyone wants to to eat, damn it! Screw traditional turkey! Last year we had a turducken plus prawns plus yorkshire pudding with gravy (and there was no disgusting Christmas fruitcake). Cleaning up for us is easy, because we realised a few years ago that we weren’t trying to impress anybody so… Plastic plates it is! We use a plastic tablecloth, plastic cutlery, plastic serving dishes and plastic cups. Then at the end of the meal, we just scoop up the tablecloth and throw the whole thing in the bin. BAM – clean up done.
Then we all take naps while the kids play with their pressies/watch TV, and that night we pick at leftovers until we feel like sleeping again. It’s a pretty great day, to be honest.
So, look, let’s get real for a second. Switching from being a ‘Kid Participant’ to ‘The Decider’ on Christmas Day is a confronting change, and it’s going to happen to every young adult at some point. For my sisters and I, it happened quite quickly, and it didn’t take us long to have a newfound appreciation for all that the adults went through just to make the day perfect and magical for us as kids. But once you get over the effort and cost involved (oi!), you realise that the best part about being The Deciders, is getting the chance to make the day your own. And now I love Christmas just as much as I did when I was a kid.
I may be on the other side of the curtain, learning the truth about how the Christmas sausage is made, but it honestly is just a different kind of fun. (And I get to eat the Santa cookies.)