I think this is a lovely idea – sharing Christmas.
Except she also insists that we be over at her house before this 8am time. We need to be over there so we can exchange gifts and have our festivities before her guests at 8am (because it is rude to open presents in front of guests).
That usually means I have to get up at 5am on Christmas morning, so that the kids can have time to open their presents from Santa, time to open their presents from their mum and dad, time to play with their presents, time to get dressed, time to pack up the car with all the things we need to take with us, time to finish preparing the foods we need to take with us and stack them all in cooler bags so that they make the journey to lunch in the Australian summer.
Every year I complain bitterly at this.
Two years ago we were making our way to my in-laws’ house at a very early hour on Christmas morning – before most people were awake. There were only a handful of other cars on the road. I was yawning madly and the kids were bouncing in the back of the car as we approached a set of lights. A car had parked awkwardly on one corner and four people were standing next to the car. I looked at them and wondered what the hell were they doing? Why had they parked their car there? Why were they standing there?
As we waited for the lights to turn green it suddenly became clear.
There was a woman with three children – aged from about ten to fifteen. As we watched she reached into the car and withdrew several large bunches of flowers and gave them to the kids, and they walked ten metres from the lights to a small white cross at the side of the road where flowers were already placed.
Three days previously a father-of-three had been killed at that set of lights after a drunk driver had run a red light. On this Christmas morning, we witnessed the pilgrimage of his widow and children as they came to say Merry Christmas to their father.
Their father who would never come home.
Their father who they would never see again.
And here I was bitching about getting up early to see my family.
So as I wish you all a Merry Christmas, I would like to remind you of two things:
1. Be thankful at being able to spend the day with your family. Many don’t have that opportunity ever again.
2. (Most importantly) make sure you are not the reason that another family don’t have a loved one to celebrate with. Be responsible this holiday season. Don’t drink and drive. Drive safely and carefully.