The Christmas experience

Welcome back! I hope whatever festival you celebrate at this time of year was enjoyable and, if you were having a break from work, that you feel refreshed.

I love Christmas. I have always loved it and have never grown out of that tingling feeling you get on days that just feel “special”. I love the music, the carol services, the food, the decorations, the get-togethers and, yes, the presents! I should add that that includes giving as well as receiving.

It has never occurred to me before to think about whether my experience of the festive season is different to that enjoyed by those of you who inhabit the sighted world, so I’m going to give it some consideration now.

I can remember helping to decorate the tree each year from quite a young age. Having inherited the family box of decorations, I have in my possession tree baubles dating back over fifty years to my parents’ first Christmas as a married couple. I can recall what these look like and as I hold them I can conjure up pictures of Christmas trees of the past.

Many decorations are very tactile. They are made of glass, papier-mâché, metal, and pottery and the tree is trimmed with silk and velvety ribbons and bows. Many of the shapes are distinctive, too: Father Christmas, robins, angels, pretend parcels tied up with bows and much, much more.

I can see the lights and by that light I can see some twinkling of shimmering baubles and tinsel.

I did have an issue with my tree lights this year. I had to buy new ones. Lights these days, so it appears, come with several settings. These range from a slow on-off sequence to something rather like traffic lights on amphetamines. You can cycle through them to get to the desired setting and a friend helpfully explained that I needed to press the button on the plug seven times to achieve this. Unfortunately, the button was one of those new spongy ones. They have them on some card machines in shops these days. They are horrible. You can’t feel if or not a button has been pressed. There is no click or beep and no tactile sensation to give you a clue. Whoever invented them, if you are reading this, take note: they are extremely unhelpful if you can’t see!

I cannot see decorations in shops or in other public places, apart from the lights, but I have been lucky in having people around me for most of my life who describe them to me and my imagination fills in any gaps.

I like my gifts to other people to look good. My PA describes the wrapping paper designs to me and does the actual present wrapping on my behalf, which means that the resulting packages are much tidier than they would be if I did them!

In theory, I also like to know what the presents other people give me are wrapped in, but I have to admit that in the excitement of Christmas Day I tend to rip first and ask questions later!

I choose cards carefully and love to have those sent to me described. People often send me amazing tactile cards. Some of the 3D ones have become decorations in their own right and come out each year so I can “play” with them again!

In short, I love it all. I lap up all the pictures conveyed to me and enjoy choosing for other people.

I met a man once who found it so difficult to come to terms with the loss of his eyesight that he would spend Christmas Day in bed rather than having to deal with the fact that he could no longer see any of the decorations or other trappings of the festive season, or even watch Christmas television. I found this incredibly sad. Perhaps he couldn’t picture any of it in his mind’s eye. I love it all and what I can’t actually “see”, my imagination supplies.

Sadly, it’s all over for another year. I am back at work now  but the sun is shining and who knows what 2020 will bring? I wish you all a Happy New Year!