Well - not really. This is South Africa, and Christmas here is traditionally stinking hot. More like "c'mon and kiss me under the aircon unit". So when I was a kid, South African Christmases were traditionally for us the slap up meal with about 50 different dishes (it felt like that), and then lying round feeling too full and trying to keep cool. We didn't have a pool - something I rectified when we got married and moved to the Cape. I'm proud to say we never had a property which didn't have a pool - if it wasn't part of the deal, we put one in when we could afford to - but it was always a priority.
My favourite memories of Christmas?
Our family was an adherent of "giving Santa Claus a little snack". So it wasn't milk and cookies - oh no! It was beer and mince pies - which was far more festive. This was a tradition I gladly carried into our own family as our kids were growing up!
Decorating the Xmas tree was always fun. We used to go and find a branch of a fir or pine tree somewhere in the neighbourhood (can't remember where now), and bunged just about every decoration we could find all over it. The decorations came off the ark , but we didn't mind. When we had our own family, we always went off and bought a tree from a vendor on the side of the road - usually a couple of days before Christmas. The smell of fresh pine added a special touch. Not being in the Northern Hemisphere, you can't find traditional fir trees.
Nowadays we have a large artificial tree that doesn't drop pine needles! When we put it up, the cats love it - especially the ornaments. We're trying to steer away from glass ornaments, as they get batted around with such enthusiasm!
I have some not-so-fond memories too. The one that really springs to mind was my dad's seemingly deliberate attempts to delay presents until he had finished breakfast. "More toast dad?" Pregnant pause..."Oh yes, I think I might". "More coffee?" (Pleeeaase say no). "No." (phew). "But I think I'd like a cuppa tea - too much coffee gives me heartburn." Aarrrrghh! By this time you can tell of course just who amongst the kids was getting heartburn ! The only day of the year he ever had 3 pieces of toast.....
Another not so favourite, was waking up what felt like 15 times during the night before Xmas, wondering if it was morning yet, and hearing the clock chime....2....3...4am. Or dreaming Christmas day had started, and then waking to find it hadn't (sulk).
So it was presents, and later morning tea and more mince pies and lunch and silly hats and crackers and nuts and chocs after lunch (dunno where we put it all, and certainly no idea where the old lady put all the left over food afterwards).
And in later life when G and I had our kids, it was fun all over again. This time it was the kids bright eyed and bushy tailed in the middle of the night "Is it morning yet? Can I open my presents?" "Nah! Go back to bed! " (sulk). Or even the occasion when one of the kids just didn't want to go to sleep. We ended up wrapping until after midnight and somewhere around 2am, tiptoed into the room to stuff the pillowcases (stockings were just too small - couldn't fit anything in them). Achieved the impossible like a little mouse, and tiptoed away....Only to be told in later life that they had seen and heard everything, because they weren't asleep!
And we prefer these days not to be cooking as if for the 5000 on Christmas day, opting for a braai (barbecue) instead. This persists today, if the kids join us for Christmas. We'll generally braai, swim and drink beer and keep cool. Not all of us are aspirant closet alcoholics - plenty of juice and Coke available (free plug). Fruit and ice cream for afters. And Christmas cake if we have room. I bake every year. Have done almost all our married life. Got one of my Gran's recipe books with a totally foolproof recipe for Christmas cake. I'm a dummy when it comes to baking, but this one's called "Never Fail Christmas Cake" - and it never does.
I have 2 Christmas quotes that come to mind. The first is from Bob Hope who said "When we recall Christmas past, we usually find the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness".
And the second is by Burton Hillis who said "And the best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other".
We have come to realise that Christmas has as much to do with Virgins and babies as it has to do with overweight dudes in red suits, cramming their bodies down chimneys. It's not that at all. It's just about family and loved ones. If the kids can't be with us, it's a pretty ordinary day. We have a quiet lunch under the trees and enjoy the cats on the blanket. But the reason for the season is the family, and when they're with us we have fun, and we enjoy giving to each other. And dammit - we like to give! Dust off the camera and get ready to capture faces and actions. Candid mince-pie moments!
If anyone wants to know what to give me for Christmas, "the family" is what I want. We have all the rest of whatever we're ever likely to need. I think the people who in later life usually end up being terribly difficult to buy for, are those who just want their families. The rest is just "stuff" and can be bought any time. But family is something special, and irreplaceable.
And Gizmo the shaved persian ? (he can't stand the heat and is much happier without a coat). He's fast asleep on his side in the middle of the study floor, being serenaded by Jim Reeves - Silent Night. I will resist putting a Santa hat on him - it's beneath his dignity!