It might be Christmas but being jolly is overrated
‘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.
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?
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