At last, there’s a winsome whiff of turkey in the air. Not to mention mince pies, sausage rolls and the waft of Glühwein! Yo Ho Ho! Christmas is only one sleep away, and naturally our thoughts are turning to friends and family both back in Blighty and here on the island.

It usually takes a little longer for festive frivolity to ramp up in Mallorca, yet back in the UK, a frenzy of festive fairy lights have been flashing as early as October! As a huge fan of a tinsel trimming, my own tree has been up and twinkling for weeks. In fact, I’ve been reindeer ready since mid November. Yet, not everyone actually ‘does’ Christmas. Here in Mallorca, the social culture is structured very differently from back home, where sadly, the commercial aspect of this most sparkling of seasons has massively overtaken the true meaning of Christmas.

Island celebrations tend to revolve around a more religious calling with a strong emphasis and focus on family, with a huge, traditional family feast on Christmas Eve that involves everybody from great grandparents to newborns. The elderly are never left alone, and it’s no shame to be a ‘single’ either! A Mallorcan Christmas is a good old get together with no-one in the family ever being left out or forgotten.

It’s extremely rare in Mallorca to find an elderly person living alone with no support from family or friends. Admittedly, there are many who live solo and thrive independently in their own homes. But they are usually no more than a ‘baguette’s’ throw from a son, daughter or doting relative. It’s their island way. Their custom. Yet sadly, there will always be exceptions to any rule, and in the x-pat camp, where, through no fault of their own, there will be those who might be flying solo this Christmas. It doesn’t take much effort to keep an eye out, so if you do know of anyone who might be alone this Christmas, then why not just pop over for a few minutes, or invite them in for a mince pie and a warming ‘copa’. It doesn’t have to be for the entire day, although that option is a wonderful kindness to gift someone who is living on their own! And don’t take an immediate ‘no’ as a definitive answer, as many ‘singles’ are often too proud to admit they are lonely for company. Especially at Christmas time.

Having said all that, not all ‘singles’ are desperately needy, and some old folk can be downright cantankerous and unbelievably crotchety. So, after my ‘buddy up a sad single’ appeal, here is a humorous account of a charitable experience which I recall every Christmas. Hence, many moons ago when I lived in the UK, one of my sisters decided to participate in a national ‘Feed a Pensioner this Christmas’ campaign, and invited a random senior into her home to share our family Christmas Day celebrations.

“We’ve all got to buy her something,” was the order. “But nothing big or fancy. Just a token gesture so she feels welcome and has something to un- wrap from under the twinkling tree.” We were a family of 5, so with various partners, husbands/wives and children in tow it was going to be even cosier than usual with an extra stranger in our midst. But we all supported the sentiment of my sister’s generous gesture and welcomed Mrs X (can’t remember her name) into the flock. I know it doesn’t sound very charitable to say, but from that day’s experience I can honestly understand why some of these elderly pensioners never get invited back.

Mrs X didn’t like the comfy seating offered by the fireside. She wanted Mum’s recliner along with all the windows open so she could put her feet up and breathe. Mrs X didn’t like mince pies much either, or children, or sausage rolls or any of the traditional little bites that Sis had painstakingly prepared. And she only drank Harveys Bristol Cream, so sat there with a face as long as a cricket bat while someone nipped out to the ‘offy’ – which being Christmas Day was closed!

Devoid of any enthusiasm or emotion, Mrs X unwrapped her presents then promptly discarded them as she was apparently allergic to all the talcs, bath cubes and festive toiletries we had wrapped for her. Although she did seem enthusiastic when trying to eat the vanilla scented candle which she thought was a ‘stollen!’

12 year old Sara’s much awaited and rehearsed violin solo was also cut short after 30 seconds as it reminded Mrs X of her dead cat (which maybe it did but that’s not the point). We ate Christmas dinner in virtual silence as being a bit ‘nervy’, loud noises like Christmas crackers snapping along with joyful laughter were apparently unsettling. Then Mrs X’s migraine kicked in rather suddenly the moment she’d finished a lion’s share of the Christmas pud. In fact, although she complained about everything, Mrs X heartily polished off the entire festive feast, showing a particular penchant for the brussels sprouts. It was a relief when she actually left, with not much of a ‘thank you’ in tow; yet her presence remained for some time, due to the chronic wind problem that the sprouts had apparently exacerbated. We were at least grateful for the open windows she had insisted upon!

Our Christmas guest also left all her presents behind. And Mum never did find her new slippers or Dad’s bottle of Napolean Brandy which mysteriously disappeared along with Mrs X as she scurried back home to her domicile. We still laugh about my sister’s great act of charity, yet wouldn’t have it any other way. Merry Christmas to all.