I don’t know about you, but over the festive period my thoughts often turn to family. Searching for the perfect present, arranging to spend time together, and sending well wishes to those you can’t see in person.
One of the things I find most interesting about that time of year is seeing the different dynamics families have, the different ways they are structured and the traditions which are often individual to that group of people.
This was the second Christmas I’ve been with Ben and the way his family spend their day is very different to my own. Waking together and having breakfast, opening presents, cooking dinner, chatting around the table over turkey and all the trimmings, then playing games while drinking a cool glass of something refreshing.
It’s been a long time since my own family had this kind of Christmas. I think the last time would be when I was 17 – so some 14 years ago.
My family never spend Christmas Day together. My brother, sister and sister-in-law all work in jobs that often see them working that day, but if they’re not, my sister likes to spend the day alone with her other half and their dog, my mum spends it with her partner, and my brother and I tend to spend it with my Dad.
This year my Christmas Day was spent waking with Ben and exchanging presents, then he went to his sister’s house for the day, and my Dad came round to mine and I cooked my first ever Christmas dinner! I was absolutely terrified and started prepping ridiculously early in the morning, but I have to say, I did myself proud – my roast potatoes were the best I’ve ever done! After dinner, Dad and I crashed on the sofa with our fully bellies and watched some TV (Lion King, the first film I ever saw at the cinema!) and when he decided it was time for him to take his weary turkey-filled body home, Ben’s sister came to collect me and I went to spend a few hours with them.
It was such a lovely day and I had a really good time.
For my family, our ‘Christmas’ usually happens a week or two after the big day itself, where we gather at my mum’s house for a buffet and exchange of presents. It’s usually only around 4 hours or so that we spend together, but I guess coming from a ‘broken home’ sort of situation, that’s understandable. To have all of my family together in one room is something I value, so for it to happen even once a year is something I am grateful for.
Families are such a hugely varying thing and in the modern day I think the term ‘family’ itself is much more fluid than it used to be. In years gone by it would encompass those people you were related to, whether by blood or marriage, but these days it tends to be generally thought of – at least for a lot of people I know – that family is made up of those you have a bond with and those people you love.
I’m sure there’s more than a couple of people out there, reading this right now, who are so close to somebody that they now consider them more of a sister or brother than a friend. Family, for me, is about who is there by your side, who shares your good times and your bad, supports you, boosts you and would defend you to the end of the earth.
I think family also used to have connotations of a married couple with children, whereas now I feel that’s changed too – a childless couple are still a family unit; I know I talk about Ben and our animals as being my little family. Being with them is where I feel safe, secure, loved and content; all the things family is about.
The 21st Century concept of family is so different to how it was thought of even as recently as the beginning of the 20th Century, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. To limit your idea of ‘family’ solely to those you’re related to seems a shame when there’s a whole world out there of strong, good hearts that might well come to be as special to you as brothers and sisters.
What’s your perception of ‘family’?