‘I can see my past burning in the sharp crackle of the fire, I can see my happiness return back to me in the sweet light of the Christmas tree, I can see the children playing outside, making snow angels in the snow, I can see the promise of a brighter future in a steaming cup of chocolate, I am awake in the soft gentle caress of Christmas cheer, I am awake in the spirit of the festive season, I am awake in pursuit of the truth, I am the Truth’
For years Christmas was a dismal affair, my biological family believed that spending should be cut to a minimum and that Christmas was a normal occasion with little cause for celebration. At the age of six it was a daunting prospect and the only presents I would receive were verbal and physical abuse so to me Christmas had lost the magic that I witnessed in the John Lewis adverts. The child who got everything they wanted was who I wanted to be and in my childish mind I saw presents as the very definition of Christmas and without them there was no reason to celebrate. My dad would buy a few little presents, I remember getting a UFO and volcanic lamp but apart from that there was nothing I could play with. In fact the first Barbie that I got was at the age of 10 when I went into care and by that point my childhood had long gone. My dad was by no means rich but had enough money to treat us all to a proper Christmas and yet chose not to. This was not out of selfish intent but because my dad was frugal and liked to save, an attitude I wished I had picked up growing up.
At the age of 10 I went into care and witnessed my first real Christmas. The living room was transformed into a Santa’s Grotto, twinkling Christmas lights adorning mantlepieces, walls and of course the Christmas tree. I was in rapture, never before had I seen such decadence before my eyes and it was love at first sight. I picked up baubles and ran my fingers along walls trying to convince myself that I was not dreaming. My foster mother laughed as I ran around the room feeling every contour and commited it to memory. That was just the starter, presents danced around the Christmas tree teasing me with their tantalizing secrecy while the comforting scent of cookies wafted deliciously under my nostrils. I became a kid once again allowed to act my age instead of being the adult that my childhood had forced me to become . It was a relief to know that for once I could be happy and joyful embracing the true spirit of the Christmas season.
One by one we gathered around the Christmas tree cross legged and trembling in anticipation of our presents. Everyone turned to me and smiled as I carefully opened my first present, slowly easing it open to discover what treat awaited me inside. Nestled in a cardboard box was a PSP, glinting enticingly under the fluorescent lights overhead. It was magical and overcome with the decadence I cried sweet tears, touched that I had a family who showed me what a real Christmas looks like. That is when I realized that Christmas is not about presents but making others happy; Christmas is about togetherness and celebrating community spirit through the medium of giving. Just one present changed my outlook on Christmas and showed me that being happy at Christmas does not revolve around how many presents you get but about who you are with.
One by one I made my way through each present thanking my lucky stars that I was being rewarded for the travails of my past and it made my heart glow with pride. In that moment in time it didn’t matter that I was in someone elses home, for the first time I felt part of something and it felt good. Christmases over the years would never be the same again but for now I lived in the present laughing as we played card games and ate Christmas dinner by the electric fire. With our stomachs full we laughed at cheesy Christmas films and groaned as our stomachs rumbled begging for us to stop eating but we couldn’t. We danced in decadence and it seemed a far cry from the Christmases I had celebrated previously. That year I was showered with cards and presents galore, chomping on chocolates and stuffing my face until I could eat no more. That empty feeling I used to get when listening to friends boast about their Christmas was gone and for the first time I could join in and be part of their conversation.
As the years went on Christmases became less and less profound and the magic I felt that first year slowly faded away. Presents decreased and that empty feeling crept back into my heart. But this year I know it is going to be different, I can feel it in my bones. That magic feeling is back and this time I am not letting go.
What was your first real Christmas like?
Photography: Jumanna Khanom
Coat: Fashion Bloc
Boots: Lily Lulu
Jumper& Hat: Asos