So Christmas is over. All that build up: the parties, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, the cleaning, the visits to friends, the duty-bound family visits, the seasonal tv guide ringed with programmes to watch, the heating turned up full blast, the oven turned on and mulled wine steaming, the radio blaring out carols for 48 hours non-stop and of course the incense-filled-candle-lit church ceremony at midnight. Phew! Does anyone feel like they need a break? Is anyone actually awake right now?
In that weird limbo period between Christmas and the start of a New Year, people all around the city have descended into The Christmas Coma. Actually probably not just in London but all over the UK too. Of course some people went back to work on Boxing Day. Those who work in retail or in the emergency services probably worked all through the Christmas period and may have only got one or two days off. For the rest of us who used up the carefully saved annual leave to take off at this seasonal time of year, a Christmas Coma brought on by over-eating and the first feeling of relaxation in about a month of craziness is in full swing.
I have barely been able to stay awake during the whole holiday period. My husband has also been groggy. It started on Christmas eve when we went to Midnight Mass at our local church. We are not religious people and I suppose it is a bit hypocritical of us to attend a church service in an Anglican church when one of us was a raised a Catholic (my husband) and the other is not sure that god even exists (me). But we like the tradition and since we live in a free country and everyone at the church seems pleased to see us, we go every year. The church is a big old drafty building that was built in 1808. But during Midnight Mass, the whole church is lit with hundreds of candles and so it actually gets quite warm. It is considered 'high church' so the vicar sings some of the Bible and she has high clear beautiful voice. The choir is sometimes out of tune, but they are charming and the organ player does occasionally sound like he has been drinking alcohol before he plays the massive organ. Members and staff of the church wear long white robes and carry holy objects around during the ceremony and one guy who is bearded and deeply serious swings the incense around in a small metal ball attached to a metal chain. Sometimes he gets so serious with his incense ball that he swings it high above his head and I fear for the foreheads of the congregation in the pews in the front of church in case he miscalculates the trajectory of his tool and brains them with an enthusiastic swing.
We love it, we love the rituals, the singing, the lights, the prayers said over a baby in a crib, the hands we shake when we wish peace to our neighbors, the blessing the vicar bestows on your forehead, the big belting carols like 'Oh Come All Ye Faithful' that leave you breathless and gasping and the vicar's timely and wise sermon. This year her sermon was about taking time out of the Christmas rush to reflect and enjoy sitting still just so you can think. A very good message to us all in this time-pressured and hectic modern world we live in. Ironically the Queen' speech (a long standing British tradition is to watch the speech our monarch gives on Christmas Day) contained exactly the same message. In fact I cannot help but suspect that the royal speech writers may have plagiarised our local vicar!
I do wonder though if it is not a little wrong of me to attend a church service every Christmas when I am not sure of my own spiritual beliefs. I do not think I will ever believe in Christianity a hundred percent, but I do like some of the messages that most religions preach, such as forgiveness and kindness and I can't help but love the rituals involved and the music and art that is made in the name of religion. Who doesn't like Handel's Messiah after all?
But I digress...back to The Coma. The problem with Midnight Mass is that it ends at 12.30am and then we end up back home at 1am, so we aren't sleeping until after 1.15am at the earliest. Then the next day we often have to travel a fair distance to see family and so end up waking up early on Christmas morning. So this leads to a lack of sleep. Add a big Christmas Day meal like the one in the photo above and you have all the ingredients for a blackout: a sleep deprived individual with a full belly. Plus the said individual has just been working hard up until a day or two before Christmas and is only just starting to relax. I have this problem with this almost every holiday I take, I am often so exhausted from working hard before the break and then after a day or two I am so relaxed that I end up feeling intensely sleepy every time I sit down. As I currently write this my husband is on the point of losing consciousness on to the pages of his book on the sofa. The problem with the Christmas Coma is that I feel as if I am actually missing out on valuable free time because I spend so much time snoozing. Most of my friends and family love sleeping. I am sure some of them would spend all day in bed if they could. I know for a fact that my friend Foo, who has recently become a mother and is therefore naturally sleep deprived, would happily give the contents of her bank account of a full night's uninterrupted-by-fretful-baby sleep.
I don't feel that way about the Land of Nod. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem sleeping, not just at the annual Christmas Coma-time but also during the average midweek night. I fall asleep like a toddler or those cute kittens you see in videos on Youtube: immediately and usually flat on to my face. One moment I will be talking about politics or the meaning of life and the next I am out like a light and snoring. It drives my husband mad, mostly because he never gets to actually hear my finished thought on what I believe the meaning of life is. I could sleep all day if we did not own an alarm clock or if didn't have a small bladder to empty. But sleeping just feels like such a waste of time. I know sleep is incredibly important to help repair our bodies and without it we would probably go brain-crazy, but I feel the same way about eating custard and apple crumble. Sure I could do without custard, but I would be pretty miserable if I never got to eat it again in the future. Or listening to Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring or drawing a wrinkly apple with charcoal or baking Chocolate Guinness Cake or taking a really good photograph with a digital SLR camera. My time on this planet is not infinite and I will probably spend a total of 26 years of it sleeping! What a waste! I could be photographing Guinness cakes and listening to inspiring classical music at 2am! People who don't need that much sleep must get a lot more done. Think of Margaret Thatcher, apparently she only had to sleep 4 hours a night. No wonder she became Prime Minister and destroyed most of Britain's rail network and stole my free state-sponsored daily milk in nursery school. She probably snatched it when I was busy sleeping! And on a more risque note, if we all slept less, we could all have more sex! And I am sure everyone would agree with me, that there is NOTHING wrong with THAT idea.
Ah well, since I need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night to function as a walking talking responsible human being, I don't have much choice. I need the sleep. I need the Christmas Coma too, as much as I am loathed to admit it. I need the time to stop, as the vicar preached at Midnight Mass. I need to calm down the frenetic pace of life, to reflect, to lie about and to snooze. And is that not what holidays are for?
On another note don't get me even started on the 46,800hrs of housework that the average woman does in her lifetime! Given the choice of cracking out the hoover or lying in a state of dreamy doziness, I will grab a pillow and chose my bed every time!