Those who know me know I have very mixed feelings about Christmas. I was supremely fortunate to have enjoyed many cosy traditional Christmases as a child and dislike the overtly consumer focussed festivities of today. (Whatever possessed John Lewis to blast Carols in their store yesterday clearly wasn't Christmas Spirit, since it's not even December!) Constantly torn between wanting a "perfect Christmas" and resenting the fact that it's yet another set of tasks and responsibilities I usually spend December flitting between states of anxiety and excitement.....
So what would my advice be for a successful Christmas?
- Know your limits - and your limitations!
- Start early
- Keep everything low key ... and
- Acknowledge the common misconceptions that invariably lead to disappointment!
5 Common Misconceptions about Christmas
1) It's Merry
This really depends on how well stocked the drinks cupboard is. The true Spirit of Christmas might not be found there but by 1am on Christmas morning - when your little overexcited insomniacs are *finally* asleep - sipping Santa's brandy hardly cuts it.
I find underestimating the
2) Giving is better than Receiving
Tough one this. I do wholeheartedly agree, since I derive huge pleasure from planning, wrapping and giving gifts at Christmas. But context is essential. I'm not worried whether I receive any wrapped gifts, our family don't really give to adults but receiving a "day off", an invitation to dinner where someone else cooks or an unexpected bottle of Prosecco would win hands down. Every time.
3) It's precious Family Time
This one really makes me smile. In many ways I guess it is, and we've had our chocolate box Christmas moments in our time. But it's only "precious" if "family" is in small doses, carefully spaced and with strictly moderated interaction. And that's the immediate resident family. Adding anyone beyond that needs meticulous consideration as too much exposure to the usual fighting and squabbling that is commonplace here is likely to leave lasting damage. Don't get me wrong, my family love each other dearly - but from a distance, through closed doors and as long as they are not coerced into a long, drawn out meal around the same table.
4) It's the Thought that Counts
I think this one depends hugely on just how well conceived that "thought" was. A last minute "It'll do!" spark at 4.30pm on Christmas Eve is unlikely to count for much at all, but anyone giving serious consideration and bravely going one step beyond socks for him, smellies for her and something from Poundland for the kids (you know who you are!) scores highly in my eyes. Most of us have far too much and want for little, having someone take the time to choose something as a gift is genuinely giving so much more. First World problem it might be, but it's easier to solve than you might think. Give a night's babysitting for a busy family, a hot meal for an elderly neighbour or a week of dog walks to a working couple. For me it's TIME that counts. Thinking counts when it involves consideration of others.
5) It's White
Seriously? WHEN was the last time you had snow at Christmas? Unless you live in Northern Scotland, not many UK readers will have had a "White Christmas" in the past twenty years, the last one I remember was 1993. I mean, who associated the Festive Season with the fluffy wet cold stuff that usually falls in January or February? Or March. Or even April - but not December, or at least not for Christmas. 2010 was snowy, and cold - but all melted on 24th December just in time for Christmas.
I guess the only thing in Christmas's favour is that it's marginally better than New Year. But just don't get me started on that one..... Humbug anyone?