I have known Ana since I moved back to Ireland in 2007. Originally from Argentina, Ana has lived in Ireland many years and is not just a writer, she’s a creative crafter, artist and cook. (See photo below) It’s lovely to have an international perspective as part of the story collection.
Over to Ana…
Great Expectations by Ana Mullan
I come from Argentina, Buenos Aires, to be precise, where at Christmas time is summer and the weather is hot and humid. Due to the influence of immigrants from Spain and Italy the main celebration is on Christmas Eve. No set menu for the evening, but one thing if for sure, in many homes people will eat walnuts and panettone, and drink champagne. Of course, these are the memories that I have, I haven’t celebrated Christmas there for the last 30 years.
Christmas brings a lot of emotions in families and not all of them are happy ones. In my small household of three, it was a time when sad memories came to mind, especially in my mother’s situation, which it didn’t make for a nice time for me.
After I got married and came to live in Ireland and had my children, that was when I really started to enjoy Christmas.
I loved the cold weather, the cosiness of being by the fire, the magic of the darkness and the candles, and the real tree.
Though my memories of Christmas at home were not great, I decided I still wanted to keep the tradition of celebrating Christmas Eve. So our children grew up with the two celebrations which we still try to carry on as much as possible.
When they were small we would invite some friends and we would have cheese fondue plus some other finger food. After that we would take out a flanelgraph and we would re-act the Christmas story. Lights would go out, the torch would come out and the children would take turns at placing the figures while Seán would read the story. This became part of their museum of memories, to which this day they still talk about.
Christmas Day was a bit more of a challenge for me. I had never cooked a turkey and all its trimmings before, so there were a few mistakes made.
One year I decided that a turkey was too much for us,two adults and three small children, so I bought a free range chicken. Trying to be organized, I put everything in the oven before we went to church but by the time we came back, the chicken was “well done” and the potatoes were almost cremated!
Another year the electricity went out on Christmas Eve and didn’t come back until late at night on Christmas Day. We had invited friends from nearby for dinner and they ended up having to cook the turkey and bringing it over and my next door neighbour, who had a gas cooker, cooked the potatoes and the vegetables, and passed them over the wall once they were ready.
We didn’t have much money but we tried as much as possible to make it a special time. We follow my husband’s tradition in relation to buying the presents for the children: something to wear, something to play, something to read and something to eat.
One Christmas I decided to give the family a present. I have been making brooches that I sold in craft shops in the area and did quite well. The local electrical shop allowed certain customers to buy and pay by installments. At that time we had an old small black and white television and I managed to buy a colour one for Christmas. On Christmas morning I unveiled the new TV to surprised little eyes.
At Christmas one can have very high expectations of the day, we do love magical things, but as I mentioned above, things don’t always go exactly as planned. Those things that were mistakes or little misfortunes today they are the memories that I smile about.
The first Christmas was far away from perfect, things didn’t all go according to plan, nor there was financial abundance to celebrate it, however it is the Christmas that we still talk about.