Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas Time in Ireland: The Rounds

Thursday, 22nd December.

I've been back in Ireland for a week at this point, and still have yet to finish my Medieval literature essay. It's due on the 5th January but I want to finish by Christmas day in order to prepare for next year's Egg Box publishing projects and my new academic modules as well as my dissertation. These will include the publication of an anthology, prospective talks by professionals in various areas of publishing, learning about Tudor rebellions and death in the Middle Ages, doing more research on midwives and hopefully finding someone foolish enough to employ me on a full-time basis.

For now, though, I have a horrendous cold. Getting up in the morning is a struggle and I make it out of my cow pyjamas by about eleven. I am on holiday so this is absolutely fine, and my parents are actually quite good advocates of people getting lots of sleep in the holidays - term time, however, is a different story: they have been known to cajole me into lectures via Skype. Some medicine revives me and I talk to dad at length about all the things I need to do, adding to the list as I speak and increasing in panic with the realisation that I need to do all these things but I want to be able to do nothing like other people seem to sometimes.

I panic and faff about bookmarking job applications after lunch - which myself, mum and dad all sit down at the dinner table for as I gather is their habit as retirees - and mum and dad go into town to buy some presents. On their return we all begin doing "the rounds." The rounds are common in our community and among our family in the days leading up to Christmas. They are basically piling into a car loaded with presents and calling to the extended family, staying up to a few hours in each house and drinking copious amounts of tea but behaving each time as if it is one's first cup. Pretty much everyone does it - but our family has decreased from six to three (as I'm the last without a partner which is FINE) so we're slightly less of an imposition now.

"Family" in this case actually consists of a man dad went to primary school with and his wife, and dad's childhood next-door neighbour and his wife and daughter. We are out for around four or five hours in total, which is quite brief by our standards. We have some nice chats about things like hearing aids, and when my dad's older brother first brought his fiancée home fifty odd years ago ("We had to get our faces washed and we were only the neighbours!")It's nice visiting the relative at this time of year, for me particularly as they are generally very pleased and proud that I am doing well in my degree and happy with my job - it makes an interesting change from mum, well-intentioned as always, asking me why I don't have a deposit and three months' rent for a flat saved up, and informing me that when she was at college she had her own car and no parental support or loans. Somehow. Was it like this for everyone in 1974 or am I just being crap in 2016? More distant relatives are just happy that you are doing well, and in further "rounds" I am told by elderly relatives that, in fact, I needn't worry about not being engaged yet - thank Goodness.

We will visit a lot more people in the next few days - obligation is a big thing in my family, though maybe "obligation" sounds like a less pleasant task. In fact, we enjoy it. It's important and heartening to call round to so many friends and family members, and everyone makes the effort at Christmas especially. Cars pass each other filled with selection boxes, potted plants and biscuit tins, our own being no exception, and it's not uncommon that you'll "call" for a particular family while they are "calling" for you. As Christmas Day draws closer and things become slightly more frantic, some of us will pray that at least one person won't be in, just to save time - we'll catch up with them after Christmas, of course.

We then nip home to put some potatoes in the oven - all we eat is potatoes - and then set out to give my cousin her birthday and Christmas presents, as well as presents for her kids, who are my age. My family is a bit of an anomoly like that. As we are pulling out of the drive, another first cousin pulls into it. The latter cousin informs us he has just been to the former cousin's house, and she wasn't in, so he'll leave his presents for her with us. The logistics of Christmas never cease to amaze. We have a cup of tea with my cousin - we are his third to last stop before being back to Dublin by the evening. We chat about family and his PhD.

After he leaves, it's pretty much television, tea and bed. At some point I bring up the hatred of millenials on social media with mum, and she asks what a millenial is, and what she is if she isn't a baby boomer like dad or a millenial like me. This takes some time to decipher and discuss, as well as some Wikipedia searches, but eventually mum decides I shouldn't listen to people who scorn millenials or Uiveristy students - we briefly mention civil rights for Catholics in Northern Ireland and then go to bed before we're up another hour talking.