I've recently just realised something about Christmas for me.
When I was younger, almost every year we used to go to my Nana's (Dad's mum) house for Christmas. Even though my Dad's side of the family is far more disparate, small and estranged than my Mum's, there was always enough of us to gather around her big table every year. The people might be different every year but there was always a big feast.
My Nana had a decent sized house in Beckenham - we even lived with her for a couple of years - so a whole mix of extended family folk could gather comfortably to eat, relax and watch christmas episodes of every single soap opera. The meals were always huge at Nana's. It was like suppertime at Hogwarts, with dishes stacked beyond their physical limits, more potatoes than Ireland could devour in a year and gravy to drown the Titanic. The only christmas photos I remember from my young childhood were in Nana's living room, with decorations across the walls and ceiling, fake snow on the windows and a great many faces I haven't seen in years.
Nana died when I was 16. We had one final Christmas in her house without her before moving on. And Christmas hasn't really been the same since. I'm not saying it's been bad - it's still a lovely day of being together, giving gifts, eating stupid amounts of food, playing games and snoozing on the sofa. But Nana defined Christmas. To me, that's what Christmas was, and since then it's always felt like...an imitation of Christmas.
Maybe it's like when your dog dies and you get a new dog. You love the new dog just as much, but it's a different dog and whenever you picture the concept of dog ownership, that first dog will always stick in your mind, because he was your childhood dog. He gave you the very concept of "dog". I think because Nana died right at the point of me transition from child to adult, that cemented her Christmas as the canonical Christmas in my mind.
So here's to you, Nana. I'll always think of you at Christmas.