Space in the fridge? Don’t panic!

Is it possible to avoid the stress of Christmas? This once jolly festivity has become an increasingly manic occasion that puts extraordinary levels of pressure on families. Do you know that the first Monday in January is known as Divorce Day in the legal community? There’s much discussion on whether Christmas is the final straw for many couples.

I have been listening to the radio this morning, to many conversations with families in cars travelling hundreds of miles to be with loved ones, with passengers laughing (hysterically) at the thought of the traffic queues ahead. I’m sort of glad that I am staying put in Devon.

I managed to quietly get on with organising the event this year. I’ve scaled down brusselsthe (naff) Christmas decorations so I didn’t get as grumpy as usual putting them up. I bought presents along the way rather than have to make a mad dash into the madness of late night, last minute Christmas shopping. I wandered into Tesco for a quick shop at the beginning of the week and managed to buy everything for Christmas dinner as all the ingredients I needed were dated 26th December. Except for the Brussels sprouts which should have been used by the 22nd. I’m sure we’ll cope if they don’t make it to the 25th.

tree-1489-x-990Even so, I haven’t been able to avoid the panic entirely. My Christmas tree went up much earlier than usual when I saw so many Facebook posts about decorating trees that I just had to (had to) go and get one.

I know I’ve bought more tat than I should have done. If I totted up the actual amount I have spent on stocking fillers and presents for the dogs, I would probably be able to book a holiday to the Bahamas.

I’m currently worried that my fridge isn’t as packed to the gunnels as it should be. With just two days to go to the ‘Big Day’ there is still space for more food. Panic! I must get to Tesco/Sainsburys/Waitrose and buy more, more, more. This morning I checked on chestnuts – yes, I’ve got them – and they’re in date! But no red cabbage. Disaster. Armageddon. Christmas is ruined.

Reminiscing for a moment, I can remember when Christmas was a cosy affair. When carol singers knocked on the door and we listened to musical renditions of Silent Night and gave them a penny or mince pie – until we were old enough to sing ourselves at which point Silent Night became anything but a silent affair.

We were so excited about our selection boxes, more chocolate than we’d seen all year! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPresents were Lego for the boys (not expensive sets, just red, yellow, blue or green bricks), and Tressy or Sindy for me. No stereotyping in our house. The Christmas stocking was filled with not a lot apart from a satsuma and a nut. I watched an Amazon advert this year featuring a small boy playing with a robotic dog that cost £160. £160. Good golly, Miss Molly.

However, it mustn’t be all bah humbug. At its heart, Christmas can still be an excuse for downtime, for family time, for eating, drinking and being merry. So – Merry Christmas and I’ll try not to be grumpy again until the New Year.






‘Tis the Season to Eat Holly

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When I was a young lass, Christmas was a magical time. It tended to start in December with the Advent calendar (no chocolate back then, just the excitement of opening a little flap to reveal a snippet from the nativity scene, with Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jee always behind number 24).
The Christmas tree came into the house about a week before Christmas day, and was duly decorated in a jumble of mismatched Christmas DSC_0004_renamed_22729decorations of varying quality, including a very sad fairy that topped the tree for many years whilst deteriorating before our very eyes. The Chinese lantern lights though, they were always amazing. I have them still, and one day I will find someone to make them work again.
A friend of our parents, known as Mouse, always gave the family a homemade cardboard snowman or similar, with little gifts tucked inside.
There was always the Crib service, where local families would pile into St Nicholas Church in Stoneham and troop up to marvel at the lambs, donkeys and kings in another nativity scene. We’d sing our hearts out and be very proud of ourselves when we were old enough to break away for the descant parts in the carols. Small pleasures.
In our house we didn’t have stockings, we had pillowcases, laid at the bottom of our beds. There was such anticipation, we never had a clue what Santa would bring, despite our hopeful Christmas lists. Some years there was joy, others disappointment (I really didn’t want a giant doll when I was 11, and the suitcase I received at 13 made me wonder if my parents were hinting at something – well, I was an obnoxious adolescent).
As I grew up, the festive season continued to be special as it became centred round friends and alcohol, but always with the huge family gathering, a chaotic Christmas dinner and the legal requirement to wear any Christmas pants on your head, and socks on your hands (which made eating the Christmas meal rather tricky). Mum was up at 4am to put the turkey in the oven, and the Brussels sprouts were cooked at least a week in advance.
Christmas has changed over the years, it’s no secret. As children, we weren’t subject to aggressive advertisements for toys from September, or the constant expectation of having ‘the best Christmas ever. Ever, ever, ever.’ We didn’t demand gifts costing hundreds of pounds. If we had done, we wouldn’t have got them. As my own children grew up I got a little sucked into the commercialism, chasing around after the year’s ‘must-have’ toys and trying hard to make everything perfect. It was exhausting.
The ‘meaning’ of Christmas, whatever your faith, has more or less gone down the plug hole. I’ve no idea anymore what it’s all about, although the word ‘greed’ comes to mind. So, I was amazed this year when I said to my teenage children that Christmas would be a little quiet, and the presents not terrifically thrilling. They both replied that Christmas was about family aDSC_0002_renamed_5672nd being together. And actually they’re right, that is the meaning now if we can only hold on to it, which I think gets harder every year.
Suffice to say, despite (or perhaps because of) my best efforts, our own Christmas tree is a jumble of mismatched Christmas decorations of varying quality. Although we sadly don’t have that dilapidated angel, who was consigned to the Great Tree in the Sky many decades ago, this year we did have Rudolf the Red Nosed Camel, and for that I will always be grateful.