The Unnecessary Pressure of Christmas
Last year I had a bit of a moan about how fancy Christmas is getting. I questioned the necessity of Christmas Eve boxes and slagged off Panettone because I was feeling nostalgic about Viennetta.
This year? Well, this year I’m feeling pretty much the same so it looks like an annual ‘What the fuck has happened to Christmas?’ blog might be on the cards.
This isn’t a Scroogey post, though – far from it, in fact, I’m a massive fan of Christmas – but earlier this week I found myself getting stressed over all the impressive things other people are doing/planning that I haven’t been doing/planning and I figured that if I’m stressing out, the chances are some of you are, too. So this is my attempt to reassure you that you are not failing at Christmassy parenting just because you haven’t hand-sewn an advent calendar out of sheep wool you’ve flown in from Nazareth.
I’m bewildered by some of the Christmas-themed conversations I've seen online lately and the final straw came when I stumbled across an entire thread dedicated to mums debating which Christmas theme to go for this year. What do you mean which theme? I read on and discovered that one mum is having a 'monochrome Christmas' because it looks classier. Another is accessorising with pastels this year because the bright colours clash with her sofa and the third isn’t sure yet what to go for but crikey, isn’t it hard work coming up with the decorative theme every year?
I wanted to scream at my computer, ‘CHRISTMAS! THE FUCKING THEME IS CHRISTMAS!’ but I didn’t because it was obvious I had stumbled into a zone that wasn’t safe for me, like the Helmand of mum chat, so I muttered, ‘monochrome my arse’ and shut down the browser. What the bloody hell is a monochrome Christmas? OK I know what monochrome is – everything is black, white and grey or varying tones of just one colour - but that’s not Christmas, is it? Is it? Christmas isn’t supposed to be classy, right? Christmas is bright and colourful and chaotic and brings together a hodgepodge of decorations bought from random places or handmade by kids over the years.
Granted, this was just one thread. But over the course of a few days I was drip fed-further images of impressive festive creations and elaborate Things to Do lists and I couldn’t help but feel a bit sad. So much seems to be expected of parents in the run up to Christmas nowadays.
Firstly, you have to trample over people in the supermarket on Black Friday as you panic-buy presents you don’t really need but feel you ought to buy because of the colossal savings off the list price they definitely didn’t hike up the week before. You then have to think about December 1st. What are you doing for advent? Some people are doing book advents, some people are doing craft advents, some people are giving away a clue as to where the chocolate is hidden each day - because if life wasn’t already busy enough you can now get up ten minutes earlier to facilitate a daily fucking treasure hunt. Don’t forget to get the elf down for the shelf and make him do cheeky things every day.
Well, we’ve got shop-bought advent calendars for the boys again this year and they’re chuffed. We do have an elf because we’ve discovered the good-behaviour bribery potential is strong, but he doesn’t write messages in Weetos or cosy up to Barbie because I haven’t got the time. He basically just moves around the shelf and the kids think that’s amazing.
I suppose my point is that Christmas isn’t about the showy stuff. Unless, of course, you want it to be. If you want to pay for a personalised letter from Father Christmas and arrange a visit to a top notch grotto (with a Santa so true-to-life he must have been through Santa Factor boot camp and Judges’ Houses to secure the role) then do it. You need not defend these actions if they mean something to you.
But don’t do these things because you feel like you ought to, or worse because you’re worried your yuletide Instagram feed looks a bit shit. So what if Derek from the garden centre’s black moustache is visible over his Santa beard in the picture and the gift he’s given your son is a shit plastic toy for the bath when you don’t even have a bath (true story). Kids are brilliant. Kids think Santa knew you didn’t have a bath but bought the toy for their outside water tray.
Kids don’t get to Christmas Eve and think Christmas is ruined because there isn’t a personalised ceramic plate for the mince pie and carrot or because they haven’t got new pyjamas in their ‘Christmas Eve box’. They don’t wake up in a cold sweat because you forgot to buy them glittery reindeer food to sprinkle on the front door step.
For me, the build-up to Christmas will always be about leafing through the Argos catalogue, putting the tree up without any regard for monochrome classiness, eating tins of chocolates, drinking Buck’s Fizz, watching Home Alone and dancing around the living room to Shakin’ Stevens. Tuesday is set to be the greatest moment of the year so far when I get to watch my little Henry Bear be a shepherd in his first nativity ('Get that fire going!' - I've been saying his lines in my sleep).
That’s Christmas. I bloody love it.
This isn't my way of shaming anybody who is borderline professional at festive stuff. I just felt I needed a moment to re-focus on what’s important and what's important is different for all of us. It's whatever stuff we believe to be important.
Don’t get swept up in doing shit you don’t really want to do.
Don’t worry about keeping up with The Clauses on social media.
Don’t put Derek out of business.
Have a proper Crimbo.