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Living Lightly column

Keeping a Christmas tradition alive

By Chris McGorlick

The arrival of a nephew in my family has breathed new energy into our annual family Christmas gathering. His excitement is infectious, and I find myself recalling all the things that I used to love about the yuletide before it became hard work.

There was so much to be excited about as Christmas approached. Visits from distant arms of the family, my grandmother’s special Christmas ice-cream recipe, the normal rules of childhood behavior not applying. But most of all, the prospect of presents!

I’d leap from bed at the crack of dawn to be the first to inspect the boxes and packages beneath the tree. Trying carefully not to wake anyone, I’d handle every box bearing my name, trying to discern any details about its contents. Shape, weight, did it make a noise? I needed to know what was in there!

Of course, my parents were cruel, torturous dairy farmers, and insisted that the unwrapping should wait until the cows were milked, and breakfast was served. The injustice!

To add further insult to injury, my parents insisted that my sisters and I all take turns opening. Although desperate to dig my claws into the paper and tear it to pieces, I’d have to sit, rattling with anticipation, and look on as my mother slowly unveiled her gifts.

Rosettes were removed and carefully stored. Ribbon and raffia was delicately unknotted. Sticky tape was carefully unstuck so the beautiful paper remained intact, and could be folded and kept. The gift itself was often of secondary importance to her than the materials that delivered it, and our cupboards were always brimming with materials to decorate and wrap.

Finally my turn would come, and in a flurry of shredding and hacking, my gifts would be revealed, leaving behind a shower of confetti.

It may come as little surprise that keeping wrapping paper is another practise that I once disdained in my parents, but now do so myself. Whilst for me it is a deliberate, anti-consumerist, low waste, political act, for them it was a simple and obvious way to be frugal.

I wonder if my mum will notice that the gift I’m wrapping for her this year is wrapped in the paper she gave me last year, and smile.