Christmas Eve, as our little heads were bent crooked, straining to hear the chink of sleigh bells at the French windows, my sister and I would squeeze our eyes closed, snug in new pyjamas as we desperately awaited sleep, hoping simultaneously that Father Christmas and his hooved friends would delight in the treats we had left them, and that we'd awake to a white Christmas.
My childhood was magical.
Since becoming a Momma, the candy cane baton has been passed to me to bring the wonder of Christmas into our home, and each year as our boys grow I strive to create memories for them that will last, as mine have, a lifetime.
Although our family traditions are too numerous to list, the bare bones of our Christmas plan include, like most families I know; the chopping of a chosen tree from our local tree farm, the decoration of said tree, a visit to Father Christmas, reading the Night Before Christmas, waking to presents and Christmas Dinner. There are a myriad of other happenings in our house, but those are the most important. And although Christmas shouldn't be about money, this is where, for all of the love I have for the season, I start feeling more than a little bit like Ebenezer.
When I step into stores for Christmas, I want to be hit so hard with the magic Christmas snowball; a feeling that this time of year is special, different, unique. Instead, year upon year the same things are shamelessly paraded in mediocre store displays; plain twinkling lights, coloured baubles, the same old Christmas puddings, bronzed turkeys and Christmas socks for Dad.... Some stores already have their January sales ready to go.
The choice of speciality goods is underwhelming, the selection quite pathetic. Yet as the only choices we're presented with, we're trapped. We buy, but we begrudge. We ask family what they want for Christmas instead of spontaneously and excitedly purchasing surprise gifts that we know they'll love, because there is nothing inspirational, just the same old, available-all-year-round generic goods.
I want special.
Christmas deserves special...and never has reality exceeded my expectations when it comes to seasonal shopping. For the last three years since becoming a Momma, I have complained each and every advent ad nauseum about the lack of originality and creativity invested in the merchandise proffered by Britain's biggest retail and grocery stores.
....Except this year.
This year I was fortunate enough to be specially invited to Tesco's Christmas in July event; an event which was so casually described to me as an event which most invitees were visiting during their lunch hour for a quick browse that I imagined something akin to a car boot style event with trestle tables.
How wrong I was.
After initially arriving on the wrong floor of the Westbury Hotel in Mayfair, the bronzed lift doors parted to reveal a shopping event so spectacular that I could have been trampled by Rudolph and I wouldn't have blinked. The sights before my eyes transported me back to my seven year old self, in red duffel coat and pigtails, staring at the Christmas grotto in the toy department of Rackhams, Birmingham. A genuine, breathtaking, spectacular Winter wonderland.
Truthfully, if I hadn't been cheerfully greeted by a lovely Tesco employee and handed some sparkling water, I would have been a keen contender for goldfish of the year. My mouth was, figuratively (thankfully not physically) open like Father Christmas' sack, ready to be loaded for his Christmas Eve escapades.
And, if the jolly fellow himself had arrived in the lift with me (he never would have; we all know he comes down the chimney) then he would have been proud of what his Tesco elves had achieved.
Tesco have pulled out every single stop this year for the Christmas season. Toys and toiletries (that actually smell as good as they claim..and better), gifts and giftwrap, food and festive decor, everything new, everything original, and something for everyone. Celebrating the uniqueness of every family, there were Christmases on display to suit all. Christmas heaven.
So this year I'm merry, this year I'll be bright. Christmas is all about our traditions; now I have a new one. Tesco shopping.
Merry Christmas preparation period... I'll be the one with her face smooshed against the window. Ho ho ho.