Once upon a time December was a magical month, filled with the anticipation of christmas, little secret presents and an endless stream of freshly-baked cookies. A self-respecting housewife has at least 7 types of cakes, preferably 13. All of this would culminate in a wonderful orgy of lights and tastes, games and gifts.
At some point things changed. I think it was around the time when my older sisters had left home, and just came home for christmas - and by the time they should come home, the house would have to be cleaned and prepared, and everything ready for just the final touches. I had to fill the space of three older sisters in the cleaning of a huge house in the period when I had the most important tests of the semester at school. My mother had started working, so I also had regular chores added, and my father was disabled after a stroke. At that point, the shine started to go out of Christmas and it became a big, dark pit of guilt and failed expectations.
It has taken me almost 25 years and two very sweet, happy and Christmas-loving children to start to see some of the pleasures of preparing for Christmas. By now I love the smell of spices, and the way my daughter settles down to happily chat and help out when I start baking. I love the good-natured banter of my son as he helps me with the advent star, and the private little conversations about presents and wishlists, carefully conducted out of ear-shot of the other family members. I have developed an addiction to christmas-tree decorations, and I have to smuggle them into the house because of the restrictions my husband wants to put on the use of such: he insists that the tree has t obe able to stand upright after it has been decorated, and not collapse under the weight of the decorations. I even manage to take time to study japanese origami to learn of new and elegant ways to wrap presents.