A chance to be Santa's helper
After years of ambivalence and down-right hostility, reporter Jimmy Ellingham gives Christmas cheer a chance in the first of our ‘Give it a go’ series.
Christmas used to be a time of magic – never-ending sunny days, new toys, backyard cricket and fresh lemonade.
When I was about 5, I swore I saw Father Christmas on his sleigh with reindeer and presents flying low over across the setting sun above Coronation Park.
The Christmas cave at Farmers was a tinsel-filled wonderland with a massive train that never stopped and musical apes.
Christmas mornings would start with a new piece of Lego and only get better from there.
But as I got older that was lost. The magic had gone and I realised it probably wasn’t Father Christmas I saw on that Christmas Eve. It was more likely a flock of magpies or even the figment of an over-worked childhood imagination.
As a teenager I still liked Christmas as it was a day off work. The excitement had gone, however, and I was even starting to get handkerchiefs and socks as gifts.
In my early-20s ambivalence set in and the day would be spent looking forward to Boxing Day cricket from Australia where Ricky Ponting would inevitably smash average seam bowlers all over the MCG.
Three years ago I started work at the Manawatu Standard and come December, our paper filled with stories about Christmas tree lights and other seasonal frivolity.
Bah humbug, I thought.
Before, I could ignore the so-called season of goodwill, but now it confronted me head-on every day.
Even if I escaped the call from the chief reporter to write a story about the hospital Christmas menu or the Father Christmas statue in The Square, I heard others discuss it. There was no escaping it either when I opened the newspaper.
Of course, there were some good things emerging out of all the December madness.
Shops sold stuff really cheap from Boxing Day onwards and despite my determination to remain stoic in the face of artificial Christmas joy; I’ve always liked Christmas carols and even some Christmas songs like Fairytale of New York.
In the main though I was, perhaps fairly, labelled a grinch – a horrible-sounding word.
This year I started December in the same fashion. A quick check of the month’s work roster saw me down to work the weekend of the Feilding Christmas parade – for the third year out of the past four.
So I trudged out there, dreading it.
But I began to enjoy the passing floats and looks on people’s faces.
At the town’s Christmas cave, everyone was having fun and as I got back to work to write about the day, I thought how nice the little tree one of my mates had stuck behind my computer looked.
Last week I took a look at the re-homed Palmerston North cave at Te Manawa.
The train still worked, although it was smaller, the apes were there and Father Christmas was having a jolly time handing out lollies to the children.
It all felt good again. Maybe there’s something in this Christmas cheer idea. I’m still looking forward to the Boxing Day cricket most of all though.