The ups and downs of our festive season.

A family’s festive season often involves children, laughter, food, gifts and family gatherings etc. Our household was no exception, although children getting older gave it a different flavour this year; Changes due to the passing of time, like the milestones of leaving for university and being old enough for part-time jobs amongst other things, made the difference more noticeable this year. With Imogen being just 10 and still faintly clinging to the Santa myth for what is almost certainly the last time, as well as our young nephew Alex being here too, some childhood innocence about the occasion remained however!

The build-up took its usual form of last-minute shopping and preparation fitting in amongst paydays, jobs and other commitments. One tradition of ours we’ve had going for a few years now is the “secret Santa” draw. All the kids look forward to it, and get excited by the prospect of drawing a family member out of the hat and buying a jokey present for them. This year was no exception, done for most on a happy (but cold!) trip to Weston-super-Mare on Christmas eve.

It was nice to have my sister in law Jo, brother-in-law Chris and our nephew Alex with us for Christmas this year for a change. They have been down a couple of times since they’ve lived in Cheshire and we’ve been back in North Somerset, but it was a welcome change to the routine this year! A “tradition” Alison started last year is to gift each child with some nice new pyjamas, a hot water bottle, and a mug with some nice hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. It was nice to be able to include Alex this year too. With all of us sat round my mother in law’s front room, the present unwrap debris from just one gift for each child did not bode well for the following day!

There were also multiple visits to my mum’s house in Bristol; Sadly, my stepdad Bill had spent most of 2017 battling stomach cancer, his health deteriorating rapidly as the festive season approached. We dropped over to see him and my mum several times, including the morning of Christmas day itself. Both Charlotte and Natasha were working on Christmas day, from 10am until 4pm. That put paid to our usual family trip to the local Chapel for the Christmas Day service, but did allow us time to visit my mum as mentioned above.

Our Christmas meal has always tended to be a late lunch / early tea, so plans for that were not really disrupted. Whilst us Foleys are always mob-handed being a family of six, with the additional family joining us along with our friend Chelley (who was on her own as her kids were visiting her ex-husband for Christmas), we had a capacity-stretching eleven for Christmas dinner! The present unwrapping afterwards was good fun and everyone seemed happy with their gifts, with plenty of post-unwrap debris that took a while to clean up along with the washing up!

Very sadly, one thing that marred the day was the sad passing of my stepdad, but in truth it was a blessed release for him after suffering with cancer. Alison and I left telling the kids until the following day, then she and I, along with Charlotte & Natasha popped over to visit my mum who was glad of the company.

The remainder of the week was spent relaxing with family or working (for Alison and me)…although courtesy of an offer to drive us over from Alison, Adam and I snuck in a trip to the cinema for the new Star Wars movie!

The New Year weekend saw Alison working, but not Charlotte and Natasha. Tash invited a couple of her friends over for New Year’s Eve, and despite an invitation to a friend’s party which I wasn’t really in the mood for, I just relaxed in front of some good movies on the TV with Adam and Imogen until Alison came home.

Here we are now into the first few days on January 2018. Back at work or school, and Charlotte due to go back to university at the end of next week. We’ll all miss her – it’s been great having her home. As Christmases go, it’s been both happy and sad. New and old. The same but different. The children are older, but they all still enjoy it. Newness, in the form of older kids having working lives, but “same old” in terms of enjoying secret Santa and Christmas eve gifts. A sad death in the family but a blessed release and end to suffering. The passage of time sees a great deal of change, but many things remain the same.

I hope you all had a great Christmas, and here’s wishing you a Happy New Year.