Full of Festive Spirit…

It’s been quite a while since I wrote anything in my blog but it would appear that a couple of people (and I mean literally only a couple) have missed my whinging so always ready to oblige, I thought I would start writing a bit again.

Where to start after so much time apart…well, it’s Christmas so why not start there? First off, let me state for the record that I actually do love Christmas – mostly.  I’m sure I’ve written about some of this before – I am nothing if not consistent in my whinging.  However, here goes – my top Christmas gripes.

– Visiting Santa’s Grotto: am I the only one who goes in “to see Santa” (with my children I might add before you think that I have made some sort of weird regression to childhood) and finds it the most excruciatingly awkward few minutes?  Poor Santa has to have the same banal conversation with each and every child about their behaviour this year (why bother asking – it seems patently obvious that the majority of children if presents were given on the basis of behaviour would receive nada) and what they want for Christmas.  In my experience, children seem to go mute at this point, either staring rather unnervingly at Santa (trying to guess who it is beneath that facial hair that is slowly sliding down his chin) or looking downwards and scuffing their shoes through the mountains of fake snow on the floor (#nightmarecleaningupjob).  It is left to me to have this insanely cheery chat with the big man about how wonderfully behaved my kids have been and how much they deserve wildly over-expensive tat for Christmas (all the time keeping my fingers crossed behind my back to counter the blatant lies I am telling).  Meanwhile the real reason we are all there is delayed interminably – the presents, Santa – hand them over and we can all move on.

– Sexy santa outfits: I just don’t get these at all – it seems so wrong on so many levels.  Santa is traditionally a man, so why do all sexy santa outfits consist of skin tight mini skirts clearly more suited to the female form?  Presumably because there is no woman alive who in her right mind would find a man dressed in a red jumpsuit, trimmed with white cotton wool and topped off with a faux white beard even remotely sexy.  Anyway, Santa is a kid-friendly concept so sexy santa suits just seem plain wrong.  Sexualising Santa is at best confusing, at worst rather creepy.

– Hats in crackers:  OK, I am prepared to accept the part that crackers play in Christmas – I mean who doesn’t desperately want one of those little screwdriver sets or irritating puzzles with rings you have to separate?  Let’s face it, Christmas wouldn’t be the same without an exchange of appalling jokes and general dissing of those whose job it is to write those jokes for the other 364 days of the year.  But the hats… no need, no purpose, don’t fit and no-one looks good in them. Yet everyone feels obliged whether it be the school parents dinner, the office party or whatever to put their ill-fitting paper hats on their heads as if somehow this is a sign to others that they are having a great time and “entering into the spirit”.  Let’s ditch the hats, people – no-one wants to wear them, end of.

– Fairy lights:  I love fairy lights.  Well, I love fairy lights of the mostly white variety but I am able to tolerate coloured lights.  However it seems that every year the nation’s obsession with fairy lights is growing inexorably. When I was young, we put lights on the tree – the end.  Now, we are expected to put lights absolutely everywhere – up impossible-to-climb trees, intricately wound around staircases, in windows, round doors, along fireplaces, even in big glass vases (some sort of temporary pseudo-art installation).  It is as if we are all in some sort of mad competition to put up as many million lights as we humanly can in the time available, starting in mid-November if that is the only way to beat our neighbours and friends.  What puzzles me is why we have suddenly gone fairy light-tastic – it’s not as if electricity/light is a new concept.  Am I missing something?

– Writing Christmas cards: every year I promise myself that this is the last year I write Christmas cards – not only does it give me repetitive strain injury in my right hand for the rest of the festive season but increasingly in the age of email and multimedia it seems a fairly pointless task.  Then it happens…the cards start to arrive through the door from other people and the guilt sets in.  Then the fear sets in that if you don’t send any cards then you won’t receive any next year yourself.  The guilt and fear grows until I find myself sitting down and madly scribbling festive wishes to people I either never see (and quite possibly won’t ever again) or equally people I see almost on a daily basis (for whom a simple “Happy Christmas” would suffice).  One year I shall be brave enough to resist the overwhelming urge to write cards – in the meantime, if you haven’t received one from me, then you can assume you are off my Christmas card list or your surname is at the end of the alphabet and I haven’t got there yet (and I have to admit might possibly never get there).

– Endless bloody festive editions of TV shows.  I can’t think of one single TV show that is improved by the addition of copious amounts of tinsel (my personal pet hate), wrapped up cardboard boxes to look like presents, TV hosts wearing Christmas jumpers and/or santa hats and nudge,nudge..endless references to “balls’.  Why does every show have to have a Christmas edition?  You are more likely to find me watching “Homeland” or any other programme where the chance of any reference to Christmas is negligible.  All those shows do along with adverts with over-decorated houses, roaring log fires and mountains of food on the table is to make you feel that everyone is having more fun than you (and has more fairy lights than you).

There you go, I feel much better now I’ve got that lot off my chest. Now I’ve shared my grievances, I shall try very hard to look at Christmas through the eyes of my children – remember how magical Christmas was when you were a child? Anyway, I’ve got to go as I’ve got at least six more sets of fairy lights to hang up this evening.

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Christmas Capers…

Turkey

Turkey (Photo credit: Mike_fleming)

Happy Christmas all! The good news is the world didn’t end on December 21st as predicted although you would have been forgiven for thinking it was going to end on December 25th instead, judging by the manic, frantic, bulk-buying that was taking place in the supermarkets around me on 24th December. The once-a-year Christmas “preppers” were out in force buying all sorts of things that will remain in the back of some cupboard until they are joined the following Christmas by exactly the same sort of things.  For example, at the last count, I found 4 jars of Cranberry sauce – all unopened and promptly joined by jar number 5 on Boxing Day.

I do sort of get these Christmas “preppers” – I’m as guilty as the next person – but as an aside I don’t really understand preppers for real.  I’m afraid that given the choice between spending months underground in a confined space with all my family eating tinned artichokes and muesli and just going with the rest of mankind in some sort of apocalypse – well, it’s a no brainer for me.

So the day itself has been and gone in a whirlwind of over-indulgence on every level – food, alcohol, presents, spoilt child behaviour (indeed one of my children is still 2 days after the event asking me on an hourly basis whether there are any more presents for him despite a mountain of toys to rival most small town toyshops). I do actually love Christmas and particularly now with children – nothing beats the magic for kids. However, there is no doubt that as the hostess and responsible adult, stress levels are not low.  Christmas Eve was spent tracking Santa online – a bit like tracking a UPS delivery.  The evening was punctuated with constant interruptions such as “he’s in Pakistan”, “he’s in Timbuktu”, “oh no, he’s getting close, he’s in Turkey and I’m not in bed. What happens if he gets here and I’m not asleep?”. Middle child who is nothing if not entirely rational then decided that there was absolutely no point leaving a mince pie for Santa or carrots for the reindeer since having performed an over-complex calculation as to number of presents delivered per second (helped by a rapidly moving “present delivery counter” in the top right screen of the tracking Santa webpage), he decided that there was no time for Santa to stop and eat anything at all. Eldest child seemed more concerned with what sort of alcohol we should leave out for Santa – he reeled off a veritable drinks cabinet – red wine, white wine, vodka, gin, brandy ….all rather concerning for an 8 year old.  Having finally decided on red wine, one small mince pie and a rather mutant carrot, peace reigned.  Letters to Santa were inevitably, given the fact that my two eldest are boys, a series of questions about which football team he supports (Arsenal for the record), which rugby team he likes and whether he found time to watch the recent England/India cricket match.

As for Christmas Day itself, that was the usual frenzy of present opening and a preoccupation with trying to break all world records for most food consumed by a human being in a 24 hour period. As head chef this year, my Christmas Day was a mixture of low-level anxiety that I might have forgotten some vital ingredient – turkey (aside: why do we eat a meat at this most important meal in the calendar which we wouldn’t dream of eating on the other 364 days of the year?), tick; parsnips, tick; bread sauce, tick; Christmas pudding with money inside, tick etc – and a moment of intense smugness and satisfaction when everything finally came together at the same moment and I presented everyone with their own body weight in food.  I am now left, inevitably, with a ton of leftovers from brussel sprouts to stuffing to turkey to gammon to potatoes – all in the fridge waiting for me to do something with.  I suspect that they will still be waiting in a weeks time and I’ll still be talking about the wonderful turkey curry and vegetable soup that I am going to make. I also suspect that the final resting place of these leftovers will almost certainly be the bin which makes me feel terribly guilty.  I’ve always thought it a bit bizarre that we mark this important Christian festival by displaying some of the most gratuitous excesses and unchristian behaviour.

Once Christmas lunch is over, I always find the rest of the day is a bit of a blur as we heave our heavily inflated bodies onto the sofa, refill the wine glass for the umpteenth time (yes, it’s Christmas so just as it is perfectly acceptable to eat a month’s food on one day, so it is perfectly reasonable to match this with a month’s wine too), and watch the Christmas edition of EastEnders (poor old Derek Branning) and that new staple – “Downton Abbey” (now that wasn’t a very festive ending, Mr Fellowes, was it?).

For all its rituals, traditions and eccentricities, Christmas in the end is for children.  This was summed up for me in two very different comments from my children. The first one showing the mindset perfectly of this generation of children : to the tune of Wham’s famous Christmas hit, “Last Christmas” – “Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, but the very next day you sold it on eBay”.  Then secondly, back to the timeless innocence and magic of Christmas when one of my children pronounced ” Mum, this is the best day ever, ever, ever” – so all the preparation, all the cooking, all the angst is worth it just to hear that. Happy Christmas everyone!