‘Tis the season to be … grumpy. You might be the kind of smiley manic Christmas lover who wears battery-operated Rudolph earrings and has a 24/7 festive smile on your dial.

You better watch out, Santa

If so, it might be best to keep away from my house until well after Boxing Day.

Every year it’s the same. We tell ourselves to stay calm, keep cool, and don’t get carried away.

But here we are yet again under pressure to buy the perfect presents for no less than forty people, work until Christmas Eve, and then produce a three-course Christmas feast for seventeen people – including three narky vegans.

And then there’s six agonising weeks of school holidays, where the children will say “I’m boooored” once every 17 minutes because you made them “turn off the electronics and turn on the family”.

(By the end of January you won’t care and will let them play Minecrack, I mean Minecraft, until their tiny fingers drop off.)

It’s no wonder that every personalized Christmas card that thuds into by mailbox seems like a personal attack.

I’m busy enough just trying to cope with the day-to-day without finding the time to bribe my kids into wearing matching red outfits and putting Santa hats on my dogs.

So how can we make Christmas less about exhausting events and crass commercialism, and more about the things that really matter to us?

It’s all getting too much.

I don’t want to have to spend the week rushing out to bulk-buy one-piece adult pyjama suits called “Forever Lazy” to give the special people in my life.

I want Christmas to be all about sharing beautiful food with friends and family, spending time with people who I care about, and exchanging gifts with some people I adore.
It sounds easy, but every year I forget how much hard work it involves.

I know it’s inevitable that I will spend much of the next week squeezed into a Westfied Shoppingtown pushing huge trolleys packed with goodies from Toys R Us and Rebel Sports.

The musak version of Jingle Bells will be on high rotation, tinsel will be everywhere, and staff will say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Happy Christmas”.

Hell, even some of the cars in the car park have reindeer ears. What a nightmare.

It’s no wonder that when you put the word Christmas into Google, the first site that comes up is Christmas.com, sponsored by US shopping giant Walmart.

So it’s now official: Walmart owns Christmas – just wait for the trademark court case to establish their ownership of the word.

A brief glance at Christmas.com shows us exactly what’s wrong about modern Christmases.

You run out of things to buy the people you love, and end up buying just about anything – and everything - to compensate.

For men at Christmas.com there’s a 6oz hip flask with a built-in cigarette case for 100 king size ciggies, an electronic rifle with soft grip and collapsible stock, and lots of barbecues.

Men, apparently, like to shoot things, burn things and chain-smoke themselves to death while skulling warm bourbon stored in their pockets.

(It’s no wonder they also sell a curious book called the Citizen Attorney, a manual for self-represented litigants).

Women, the site shows, want underwear, perfume and “pyjama jeans” (“pyjamas you live in, jeans you sleep in”) so they don’t have to change their clothes too often.

There’s also “clothing pads” to protect their clothes from their bad BO, and a book called From Hormone Hell to Hormone Well.

Good luck giving your special lady any of those presents.

It’s clear that we have to give ourselves a break and do more Kris Kringles so we only have to buy one present, not ten. Maybe we should be buying goats for impoverished villages rather than buy things people don’t need. Or we could just make a pact to go present-free. Or at least present-lite.

Before we met, my husband would do all his Christmas shopping at five o’clock on Christmas Eve: booze for the men, perfume for the ladies, and chocs for the oldies.

It used to bother me, but now I realise that he had the right approach: Keep it Simple, Stupid.

When we end up buying gift cards because we need a present but can’t think of the right thing, it’s a sign something is wrong. There’s even a website where you can offload your unwanted gift cards onto people who really want them.

We should really start holding Christmas on the 27th to make the most of all those Boxing Day 70%-off sales.

Sadly, at this point it’s only the truly organised (and sickeningly smug) who manage to use Boxing Day sales to buy next year’s presents at that kind of discount.

Clearly, it’s time to strip it all back, and stop getting caught up in the silliness that doesn’t matter.

Now I just need to take my own advice, throw away the shopping list, put away the debit card and cancel a few functions.

But first I need to find a home for 15 pairs of pyjama jeans, and a few dozen “Forever Lazy” suits. Any takers?

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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    • acotrel says:

      05:02am | 19/12/12

      I left my radio on last night while I was asleep.  I won’t do that again.  I awoke to the most inane christmas crap.  I don’t want to hear it, it might cause me to slash my wrists. Thankfully my wife is away and couldn’t hear me swearing as I struggled to turn off the radio..

    • J Hoover says:

      06:18am | 19/12/12

      You made a good mistake acotrel.

      I stayed up drinking and eating pain killers until 3am. Now the kids are awake, screaming at me, pouring their milk into the carpet and generally working to make my life miserable.

      Work sits ahead of me, laughing at my foolish behaviour but choosing not to budge, because, hey it’s Wednesday. Christmas looms as a better day, because sure I might be depressed and hungover but at least I don’t have to go to work to pay for the lifestyle of my snot-nosed kids.

      The eldest one, Edgar, is really pushing it at the moment. He is full of seasonal goodwill ad enjoys dressing as Santa.“cheer up dad” he says, unaware that he is talking to someone on the wrong side of 40 and with little to look forward to other than the occasional public holiday that will at least let them sleep in ‘til 9am.

      Still, nothing will dull the blunt realisation that the fresh-faced youth who entered adulthood with optimism and the believe that anything can happen has been roundly let down by the decisions of a now middle aged man who chose suburban mediocrity in which the highlight might be the drunken and fumbling flirtation with a 22 year old woman in a nightclub who will most likely go home and laugh about it with her friends.

      Merry freaking Christmas.

    • stephen says:

      07:30am | 19/12/12

      The sound of crashing motorcycles is your nightmare alcho, not ours.

    • Philosopher says:

      08:46am | 19/12/12

      haha J Hoover, what a great post! Reads like a Raymond Chandler novel. Except Marlowe would have blearily woken up with the 22 yo, only to find she is the missing daughter of a terrible gangster. See, it could be worse! Enjoy Christmas my friend.

    • Gregg says:

      05:22am | 19/12/12

      ” I know it’s inevitable that I will spend much of the next week squeezed into a Westfied Shoppingtown pushing huge trolleys packed with goodies from Toys R Us and Rebel Sports.”

      Maybe it has caught up with you already Susie for next week is the Xmas week and unless you reckon you’ll be in Shoppingtown on Xmas eve and then from Boxing Day through to Friday trying to return loads of unwanted stuff, you might have lost a week along the way somewhere.

      Just get into the bottle of bourbon and all will be well.

    • SAm says:

      05:36am | 19/12/12

      Simple solution..do ‘Secret Santa’ with your extended family. Set a price limit.
      So easy, weve been doing it for years now and loving it. Now the time spent cooking, and just being together is so much better (even if the odd large argument sends half the people home unexpectedly

    • cheap white trash says:

      06:51am | 19/12/12

      Bah, Humbug?

    • JC says:

      07:02am | 19/12/12

      I like the buying goats, or other useful items, for poor families. A number of charities offer a range of affordable gifts for people really in need - from chickens to a water well for a village. I got chickens from one secret santa - as I said, you bought me something I really want then gave it to someone who really needed it. I think that’s the key, only buy a gift that someone really needs or we’ll be regifting into the next decade of Christmases.

    • TChong says:

      07:34am | 19/12/12

      “I got chickens from one secret Sana”
      were they frozen Steggles ?
      or alive, in a cardboard shoe box.?

      Good onya for the charity,, and good onya for being a sport.

    • Joan Bennett says:

      07:23am | 19/12/12

      I don’t know why people bother with christmas, seeing so many hate it.  I gave up doing christmas years ago and it’s pure bliss.  Imagine if everyone in the western world donated all the money they wasted on christmas every year?  It would be so much nicer than a bunch of non-believers celebrating… what?  They are not into what it actually means (choose either the pagan or christian custom), so why do they recognise it at all?  Social convention?

    • Benjamin says:

      10:29am | 19/12/12

      I have yet to see a Christmas go by without a vicious fight or feud erupting between the people who claim to love each other.

    • Starburster says:

      07:30am | 19/12/12

      I love Christmas. I can’t wait to ge the Christmas tree and decorations out ready for December 1st each year. However, I can’t stand going into shopping centres at Christmas time - the parking, the screaming kids, the overpriced goods that are ‘perfect gift ideas’. I especially hate those little stalls that appear selling crappy fountains, water features and statues - dust collecting crap!
      So this year, I did all of my Christmass shopping in 4 hours in November. From the comfort of my own home. I am a definite convert to online shopping this year because I haven’t had to set foot in a Westfield since about the beginning of December. Also, everything I have purchased has been cheaper than retail and has involved nothing more than me waiting for it to arrive in the post - which it has, all within 2 weeks of purchase. Even the stuff from overseas.
      Do yourself a favour, take the stress out of Christmas and buy gifts online. Don’t worry about hurting the retailers in the shopping centres, because there are plenty of others waiting to buy their crap.
      This year we’ve also decided to do a Mexican themed Christmas lunch. Tacos, burritos, fajitas and nachos. Food everyone loves, minimal preparation time and easy to find ingredients that won’t see you spending 454738392028373 hours in the kitchen on Christmas Day. Throw in a few mojitos and tequila sunrises and it’s the best day ever!

    • encee says:

      09:04am | 19/12/12

      I love the Mexican food plan.

      Somebody please tell me - why is Christmas food always turkey and roasted vegetables?

    • Gregg says:

      09:04am | 19/12/12

      You have just nade Rosie’s week for her or at least maybe helped with her planning for next year!

    • patsy says:

      10:51am | 19/12/12

      I do all my christmas shoppin online, too. I try to buy Australian but, it’s too expensive.

    • LJ Dots says:

      01:04pm | 19/12/12

      That’s it, I’m crashing your Christmas shindig Starburster.

      My family and in-laws will be devastated of course, but hell, we’re talking Mexican food here, they’ll understand.

    • Starburster says:

      04:02pm | 19/12/12

      @LJ Dots: to top it off, my parents used to own a Mexican restaurant before us kids were born, so my mum makes the best traditional Mexican beef and chilli con conqueso this side of the Rio Grande.
      Really… No-one likes Christmas food. So why spend all that time cooking something when everyone would enjoy something much simpler? If Mexican is your thing, like us, then go for it. If it’s steak and salad, why not? Who really needs a 5kg turkey?

    • Gregg says:

      08:12am | 19/12/12

      We should have a Secret Santa gift guessing competition and in starting mine rhymes with what ought to be a real ripper.
      It also has two wheels, a motor and is guaranteed to go if you push it.
      Bought with the wife in mind.

      Any guesses?

    • patsy says:

      10:43am | 19/12/12

      It won’t want to be a vacuum.  I hope it’s a race bike that you have to clutch start.

    • Philosopher says:

      11:13am | 19/12/12

      a puppy?

      damn, I was never good at Pictionary.

    • JoniM says:

      12:37pm | 19/12/12

      You old romantic !
      A motorised edge trimmer !
      She will love it ! No more grazed knees !

    • Colin says:

      01:56pm | 19/12/12

      A petrol-powered slipper..?

      WoW! I want one!!!

    • Hopium says:

      08:17am | 19/12/12

      It’s easy - I don’t shop at Xmas. I have a shelf in a cupboard and a list.
      If I pass a shop that has something suitable, I get it and cross the name off. Otherwise it’s charitable donations (which has happened a few times). Often I get a person their birthday and Xmas gift at the same place. One is given for the birthday, one stays on the shelf. But then, I like giving people gifts that suit them. I like thinking about that person and putting effort into it.

      The shelf also saves me from the last minute rush!

    • Jorge says:

      08:19am | 19/12/12

      Man Christmas is so awesome. As a Nu Zillunder I get to go home for two weeks and its all fresh and crisp and shiny and then I get to jump back in to the plane and deal with the worky drudge I left behind.

      I can see how being in a city with all your family around and not going anywhere being a bit anti-climax-ish with everyone all like “choo choo, all aboard the fun express, tomorrow is going to be soooo awesome” and then everyone waking up and eating turkey and laughing at uncle steves bad jokes and realising its not that fun actually commemorating the day three old guys found a barn.

    • Philosopher says:

      10:20am | 19/12/12

      hev a great chrissy bro’, I herp you get a pet tuatara!

    • JoniM says:

      12:51pm | 19/12/12

      Hey ! Jorge !

      You sound like a bit of an igg, bro !
      But if you are really good, bro, you might get Michael Jackson’s Thriller album for Christmas ! Would go great with the tuatara and you could chuck some great dance moves for the family !

    • Katie says:

      08:58am | 19/12/12

      Oh my god. This year, and last year too, almost every Christmas article on The Punch has reeked of ‘bah humbug’. Seriously, Christmas isn’t going anywhere, can you stop complaining about it?

      Here are some simple solutions to your problems:
      1. 40 people to buy presents for? Yeah, do that Secret Santa idea. I’m sure others in your present-giving groups will agree with you.
      2. Start your shopping mid year. It’s really not that hard. Online shopping is your friend, then put everything in a present box/draw. Finish before December starts.
      3. Lasagnas. Vegetarian lasagnas. You can whip them up and keep them in the fridge for ages. Same with potato salads and any other pasta dish. Or, alternatively, suggest pot-luck for your Christmas events.  Or, again alternatively, stop inviting vegans to your Christmas parties.
      4. Do what you suggest; strip back things to what matters to you. Why are you even doing anything else for Christmas?

    • cityboy @ Sydney says:

      09:01am | 19/12/12

      We (just the 2 of us) have a purpose-bought Christmas box which we fill, well nearly, with small things we will use in the new year, all wrapped in el-cheapo Christmas wrapping, some recycled from last year.Buy limit is $100 each, or a tad more if buying something for ones-self as a treat. All stuff we need/want, nothing perishable or disposable by Boxing Day. The rest of the crowd will just get a Christmas card. Today is pretty much the deadline for all purchases; the Westfield Carpark-rage syndrome is to be avoided at all costs!

    • no way I would reveal where I work says:

      09:26am | 19/12/12

      I am overlooking a Westfield rooftop carpark as I type.  Current count - 8 cars.  Sorry - 9

    • cityboy @ Sydney says:

      12:14pm | 19/12/12

      Is that Westfield Damascus then?

    • no way I would reveal where I work says:

      12:51pm | 19/12/12

      Business is booming and the escalators are crammed.

      65 cars now.  Total spaces available around 300

    • Abe says:

      09:16am | 19/12/12

      Our Christmas is looking good, the adults don’t buy presents for each other, it’s just the kids, we don’t cook lunch as the local pub does a great spread for a decent dollar and as we live in Brisbane the rest of the arvo is spent in the pool, beer in hand.
      The best bit is because my wife has taken a small amount of money of me every week for a year the whole thing, including Boxing day’s seafood is payed for.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      09:32am | 19/12/12

      I have solved the annual problem of Christmas.
      I simply told my family that they can do as they wish but I will not be taking part in anything remotely connected to this farce.
      My decision fell into place as long ago as Last Christmas. Not being particularly wealthy I have always tried to save a bit during the year, buy small presents for the very small ones, usually toys, and then give the older ones some money. Yes, I know that’s the easy way out but at least they can buy what they actually want!
      I gave four Teenagers (2 @ 16, & 1 each at 17 & 18) $50 each - not bad for people who can’t be bothered to get in touch during the year or when I ring them I get some bloody answering machine of some sort but they never bother to retunr my call - The look of disgust I got from the four of these bastards (2 F, 2 M) actually shocked me. The fact that they did not even say “Thank You” - However insincerely was almost as bad. They gave me Nothing!
      So that’s it for Christmas for me from now on. I’ll simply spend what little I have on useful people & things I actually need but Christmas, Christmas Cards etc are Off my List of things to do!
      Give the money I save to “Charity”? Not in a million years ‘cos the vast majority of it would be squandered on “Administration Costs” such as 1st Class Airfares & hotels when those running those scams go on their overseas junkets.
      Yes, I AM a Grumpy Old Man & I don’t care who knows it!!

    • Unicron says:

      09:55am | 19/12/12

      Women (not all obviously, thought i better get in before the generalization brigade choke on their breakfast) taking on too much over Christmas and then whinging about it. Then getting offered help by their partners and then whinging when they don’t do it to the lady’s liking. In the words of Chopper Reid…Whinge, whinge, bloody whinge. If it makes your hair fall out trying to get those pats on the back and compliments you so desperately crave, it’s no one’s fault but your own. Happy Festivus!

    • Katie says:

      11:15am | 19/12/12

      As a woman, I actually don’t disagree with this. A lot of us seem to think “oh, everything has to be perfect!” or don’t leave enough time with all the plans they make. Really, are your friends/family going to notice if your table setting isn’t just so? I doubt it.

      My man is doing the turkey this year, as always, and I’m perfectly happy to leave it to him. If he volunteers for anything else, I’m pretty sure he’ll do that just fine, too.

      Everyone (women in particular, some men too) needs to take a chill pill about the whole christmas thing. Or just do a pot luck. Seriously, it comes once a year, why stress?

    • Peter says:

      10:19am | 19/12/12

      Your picture tells the story.  Why oh why do so many people insist on dressing up in winter warmers in the middle of summer?  It happens every year, and then they finally come to their senses on Dec 26 only to forget again the next year.

      And as for being “jolly”, I’m sure Christmas would a much more enjoyable time for almost all of us if we could severely cut down on the consumerist bosh.  Christmas is meant to be a celebration not a spend-a-thon.

    • Anjuli says:

      10:31am | 19/12/12

      The real reason for Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Christ ,to give gifts to children . I do just that give gifts to my grand children not to grown ups I stopped that habit after retiring ,now my children have their own children they do Christmas lunch for parents which we enjoy .I used to love Christmas in the Northern hemisphere where I was born ,lived till 38 years of age ,I have never got used it down under ,it seems strange to see all the tinsel during summer ,that is small price to pay for living in such a lovely place.

    • Philosopher says:

      12:43pm | 19/12/12

      *aggro tone* well if you don’t like it here mate you can eff off back where you came from *pokes stiff finger into Anjuli’s chest*
      Go on, why you still here then? Hate this great country do you mate? *slurps warm Carlton Draught*

    • Fed Up says:

      12:46pm | 19/12/12

      Ahhh if only fixed/low income earners had that problem….

    • Philosopher says:

      01:21pm | 19/12/12

      never mind Fed Up, you can still have a nice break. Merry Christmas.

    • Anjuli says:

      02:07pm | 19/12/12

      @ Philosopher Did you read my last line, I doubt it, unless you are so full of the grog already it has addled your brain.

    • Colin says:

      02:49pm | 19/12/12

      Irony also a foreign concept to you, Anjuli..?

    • Onlooker says:

      02:59pm | 19/12/12

      When i was young i loved Christmas..now I am old I can take it or leave it..preferably the later.. Merry Christmas All

    • scumbag says:

      03:46pm | 19/12/12

      The wifey, a bit of a shorty,  always gets soaked pushing the boat out from the ramp. So I put a folding ladder on the back for her, and as a reward for being the deckie.  This year for Xmas, I bought her a landing net for the big tuna I usually catch.


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