When I was a kid Christmas was a three-day festival.
The day itself, of course, when you’d start real early by opening your stocking and getting loud to wake up the house, followed by the interminable church service, and finally heading around to the whanau gathering at Uncle George’s place. A bloody interminable morning tea of grown-ups yakking, until we could finally get to Grandad Charlie doling out the presents. The big big lunch at a loaded table, and then playing rugby with the cousins, and a big swim, and then dinner and playing 500 and snooker and rugby in the dark.
Boxing Day was the time to break all your toys, and the joy of leftover ham sandwiches on soft white bread.
But the first day of the festival, Christmas Eve, had a rhythm and joy all its own. A day of unbearable anticipation and excitement. People arriving, baking and cooking, wrapping and re-wrapping, testing the presents under the tree, running around like a banshee. A whole year we’d waited, and just one more sleep.
Well, I’ve waited four long short years for tomorrow’s kick-off in another Rugby World Cup, and I’m as nervous and excited as a Young Ned ever was.
I’ve made my wishes list, and I’ve touched and tested all the possibilities under the tree, and I’ve even prepared the food (which unfortunately is now a single carrot, rather than Auntie Lurl’s famous bacon-and-egg pie, and mounds of roast potatoes and the biggest ham you ever did see, and pavlova and trifle and strawberries and Xmas pudding with hidden sixpences.)
One more sleep. Hallelujah.