IT is the middle of November and I have had “the dream”. I get “the dream” every year at some point and it goes with some variation of this.

It is Christmas Eve and nothing is done. Not a sausage. No decorations, no gifts, no food, nothing. I am panicking and everyone else is relaxed, thinking I will pull it out of the bag. Except there is no bag. I wake up feeling sick and begin to make a list and prepare.

Some years this happens in August, but thanks to Sod's Law my sub-conscious only woke up this week and I feel months late. This may well be related to how everything has changed in my house. Last month my youngest turned 18. Santa no longer visits our chimney. Potentially it should all be a lot more relaxed. But my dream says different. My dream has me screaming in silence like Munch with a Santa hat on. 

What is expected of the mother in a home with only adults, but adults who expect Christmas to retain its essence and magic? And when I say everyone I am talking as much about myself as all of those around me. Do we cull the presents? Do we stop the Christmas jammies, jocks and socks? Do Himself and Myself end the Christmas Eve ritual of staying up after everyone else’s bedtime to lay the presents out? I feel conflicted, I will be honest. For while I am all for making life easier, I also know that the hard miles pay off with magical treats and delights, and the feeling that while every other day of the year might push back, but this day will deliver. 

Yeah, I recognise this is about me, my fear of an empty nest and my unpreparedness for this new era in my life. Maybe that is actually the scream behind the scream in my head. So “the dream” prompts the inevitable candying of oranges, limes, lemons and grapefruit. It has me reaching for the calming tones of Delia as she guides me again through the process of making mincemeat that will fill pies next month. Nigella soothes my anxiety as she reassures me that her Christmas pudding will once again convert the pudding averse. And a recipe I cut out of a magazine 15 years ago to make a Christmas cake with the unlikely ingredients of prunes and chocolate is mindfully pressed out and dusted off as I am reassured and know that it is the very best recipe I have ever used for Santa’s treat. This year he might drop by for old time’s sake and leave his unnecessary sack in the sleigh for this welcome visit.

And with just these simple acts of reconnection I feel my shoulders drop, my jaw slack and the tongue that had been pressed firmly to the roof of my mouth settle with humming along to the Irish carols on Spotify. This new era is a great era too. And isn’t that what our generations before us have always known? Everything constantly changes. Even how we do Nollaig. The best days of Santa’s visits and the joy of excitement the night before and running to the tree in the morning might be gone, but have just been replaced by something as lovely, rich and meaningful. 

Only five and a bit weeks to go!