Today’s post* is brought to you by a writing prompt. The prompt is to “write a list of your favourite holiday activities”. I wanted to pick a different prompt, but as it’s the prompt I was given, I feel that I need to tackle it. But in my own way. Because it’s my blog so I get to make (and alter) the rules as I see fit.
As often happens here on Just Frances, I feel that I need to reflect on the past as well as the present (and the future) for this post. In part because my present favourites aren’t the same as the past. Although I hope that in the future, I can bring my past favourites back to life again. Oh, and I am taking “holiday” to mean specifically Christmas for this post.
My favourite holiday activities from the past are the traditions that were formed when I was part of a happy couple. My “pre-widowhood” holiday favourites were a blend of traditions from both of our childhood and pre-marriage experiences and new traditions that we adopted or created for ourselves.
The first of these traditions was the decorations. We always waited until December to begin (generally at the start of the second week). We would spend a Saturday getting everything ready, saving the tree for last. When we were ready to decorate the tree, we did so with homemade mulled wine and a mixed CD of Christmas music that Paul had made in advance. (There was a theme to the song choices each year; it was lovely!)
We also had a tradition of purchasing souvenir Christmas ornaments when we went somewhere “special”. That way, as we decorated the tree, we could reminisce about the adventures we had shared over the years. We were just so sappy!!
On Christmas Eve, we would attend Midnight Mass at the Catholic Church. Then, on returning home, we would change into our brand-new Christmas pyjamas before enjoying a nice Cognac or Bourbon by the fire – whilst listening to Paul’s Christmas CD.
On Christmas morning, we would enjoy a glass of Buck’s Fizz whilst opening our presents. Then we would change into something warm to go for a walk before returning home to start our Christmas feast. We always tried to time our feast with the Queen’s Speech and afterwards, we would enjoy another walk.
The rest of the evening would be spent curled up on the couch sipping a glass of something nice in front of the fire, whilst watching Christmas specials on the TV. And then on Boxing Day, we would eat some more, and walk some more, and snuggle some more.
For the most part, I spend holidays alone these days. And that means that I have had to create traditions that are just for me. Silly things that keep me happy and that are designed to make me feel less lonely and pathetic. It is mostly by choice, as I know (from experience) that joining in on someone else’s holiday makes me feel like an outsider.
To cope, I try to avoid the most “holiday-y” bits of the holiday, which means that I do not decorate or listen to Christmas music. And, to be honest, I try to avoid the shops and holiday parties, too. It’s just easier that way. (In part because it’s awkward for others when they ask what my plans are and I tell them I’m spending the day alone. People don’t like that.)
The traditions that I have created for myself are all based on good food, self-indulgence, and mini-adventures. It begins on Christmas Eve when I start to prepare lots of lovely food for Christmas Day. In the evening, I don my brand-new Christmas pyjamas then I like to enjoy a glass of cognac in front of the fire whilst watching something on TV**.
On Christmas morning, I like to indulge in a glass of prosecco and something nice for breakfast. Then, I head out for a walk somewhere. It might be a short walk around the rural estate I live on, or it might be a mini-adventure in the Pentlands to find a geocache. It’s never too arduous though because I know I have a long day of food, drink, and TV to get through.
After my outdoor adventure, I like to make myself a nice feast. It might be a roast beast of some description, or it might be lots of canapés and other such nibbly finger foods. I try to arrange the furniture so that I have a spread of good food in arms’ reach. Then, I feast in front of the fire whilst watching Christmas specials on TV.
On Boxing Day, I head out for another mini-adventure before enjoying another day of feasting (on leftovers) and TV.
So, it is a bit like my “favourites past” but it is reformatted to only include the things that will make me feel a bit more confident in living a solo life.
I don’t know what my favourite holiday traditions will be in the future. But I hope that they incorporate some of my past traditions with some of my present ones.
When I close my eyes and allow myself to imagine a future with a new partner, I like to picture us decorating our home together. I like to imagine that we would laugh and frolic and enjoy a bit of silly holiday joy. And I like to imagine that we would cook big feasts together – either for just the two of us or for a larger group of family and friends.
When I think of future traditions, I like to imagine that mini-adventures begin to play an anchoring role. Like maybe mini-adventures become a way to hide Christmas gifts (or clues to gifts) in a similar fashion to geocaching or a scavenger hunt. (This, of course, requires meeting that perfect Future Partner who will indulge me in such silliness.)
I like to imagine that future holiday traditions will incorporate not only my past and present traditions, but the traditions of the person I am sharing my future with.
Obviously, I have no way of knowing what my future favourite holiday traditions will be. However, I am hopeful that, one day, there will be new traditions. Hopefully, with a new love. (If not, I am sure I can create more traditions on my own. I am getting good at that!)
And there you have it: my favourite holiday activities and traditions. (And, with luck, this writer’s block will begin to ease soon!)
* Why this post? Well, I have been experiencing
a bit a lot of writer’s block with my PhD lately, and that has impacted my blog. I feel guilty that I am unable to write thesis words and that makes me feel like I can’t write Just Frances words. Then it dawned on me that maybe some free-writing here will help me to overcome the block, which will help me to get that bloody thesis written. So… here’s hoping!!
** I say TV, but mostly I watch things on one of my laptops. But it is stuff from TV channels that I can access online. Although sometimes, I get really fancy and I connect the laptop to the TV so that I am watching TV shows through my laptop’s internet connection on a TV. But for ease, let’s just say I watch TV.
Photo note: This was taken with a timer on my last Christmas with Paul. It was probably my favourite Christmas because it was also our first (only) Christmas in the home we bought together. I would give so much to have that day back.