Relaxing with Books at Christmas

Elaine Forrestal disappearing into to a good book

For as long as I can remember Christmas has been a highlight of my year. For the whole of my childhood, Christmas Eves were spent driving four-plus hours cramped up in the back of our family car – a little Ford Anglia – with my two brothers. We would all be slumping onto each other’s shoulders as we fell asleep, in spite of the excitement of Christmas and the anticipation of holidays. We would wake, off and on, to check where we were, but we dare not ask ‘Are we there yet?’ Not out loud at least. Not if we wanted to avoid the effort of having to play ‘I Spy’, or even worse ‘Numberplates’, which was a maths game devised by Dad. It involved adding together, quickly and accurately, the last three numbers on the registration plate of any vehicles that we saw on the road. This game was either so difficult, or so boring, that I invariably fell asleep again within the next fifty miles – which is probably why Dad devised the game in the first place. When we finally reached our destination – our grandparents’ house – the excitement of city lights, a Christmas Tree and the scramble to find our Christmas Stockings from last year, revived us. We ran around the house, shouting, exclaiming over the latest Christmas decorations and searching under our pillows to see if, by any chance, someone had left sweets for us there. We hung the stockings at the foot of our bed. The same beds we had slept in every Christmas Eve and would continue to sleep in right up until both of our grandparents had died and the house had been sold.

This year one of my friends commented, ‘I’m too old for Christmas. I’m over it!’ I was genuinely shocked. How could anyone be too old for Christmas? I understand the whole last minute shopping panic, but when I thought about it, I have managed to eliminate that, over the years, by giving everyone a book for Christmas. Even the youngest members of the family expect it of me. And everyone gives me a book in return, or something they have made, rather than bought. Throughout the year I read the reviews, then the books themselves, before I wrap them up and put them under the Tree, or in the appropriate stocking. It gives me an excuse for reading a wide range of genres and thinking about which of my friends and family would most enjoy a particular title. By the end of the year my Christmas shopping is done and I have really enjoyed the process. I can then relax, more or less, and soak up the good company, food and wine; while looking forward to reading the books I have received in return.

Hope yours was a good one.

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