Well, the festive season is here again—and usually by this time my stress levels are off the scale! But not this year. For the first time in the 47 years my husband and I have been married, we’re spending Christmas Day on our own… and I can’t tell you how excited I am! Not that I haven’t enjoyed all the Christmases over the years when first our children were growing up; and then our grandchildren. But I’d be telling porkies (pork pies—lies) if I didn’t admit to feeling under immense pressure in the run-up to the ‘big day’.
Firstly, what to buy everyone? Do I fill an Xmas carrier bag with lots of items from the Pound Shop? Because, in reality, the younger children really only enjoy the anticipation of the gift—and unwrapping. Growing up now they become heavily influenced by the relentless bombardment of TV adverts—or feel pressured by their friends into requesting the latest kids craze or fad… despite it costing a small fortune! When they hit their teens, the focus becomes: ‘money, money, money.’ No trudging around town needed here. And you can’t get away with that bargain you bought in the sales last January.
Once you’ve decided which gifts you still need to buy, let the battle commence! You put your life in others’ hands as you head for the shops. Invariably you can’t find what you want straight away, so you join the mile-long queue to request it in person from a sales assistant… only to discover, when you reach the counter, your item has sold out!
The easier, less stressful option these days has to be online shopping. But be sure you’re dealing with reputable companies and sellers. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting with anticipation for that special gift… and it never arriving! Worst still, your money’s been lost too. The safest option is to pay by credit card and not debit—which gives you no protection at all.
So we’ve dealt with presents, now what about cards? Well, after countless years of crafting a ‘round robin’ update letter, I came to the conclusion no-one’s really interested in what’s happened in my life over the past 12 months. Or perhaps they simply don’t have time to be interested, given the number of things pulling us in different directions and vying for our attention in 21st Century life. Traditionally, we still receive cards from people we never see and only communicate with at Christmas—featuring the inevitable line: “We really must get together next year.” Why do we repeatedly vow this? We haven’t turned the vow into a physical catch-up/get-together for the past however many years, so why would that change now? These are simply empty promises.
Over the last couple of years I’ve taken a hard line and bravely struck people off my list… only to then receive a card from them a few days later! So, of course, I send one back; feeling obligated to do so—and guilty if I don’t. But why is it so difficult to break this habit? Well, with postage costs rising every year, I have now managed to make some progress on that front: sending e-cards. For me they’re simply brilliant—especially for those we send to overseas!
So, with cards and presents sorted, what’s left? Food, of course! What I’ve yet to understand, when it comes to shopping for Christmas and New Year, is why we feel the need to stockpile supplies as if shops are going out of fashion. We cram our trolleys chock-full with absurd amounts of food and drink—much of which will simply end up in the bin or compost. Why do we do that? Perhaps it’s that we’ve been conditioned to believe that, over the Yuletide week, our bodies need regenerating/revitalising with the consumption of more food than we’d normally eat in a month!
If we all took a step back, got some perspective and shopped sensibly, there’d be a lot less wastage and a much lighter impact on our wallets. We’d be healthier, too—so all-round a ‘win-win’ situation. Let’s dare to dream! Back to Christmas 2017. When I let slip we might be having a Christmas pizza for dinner, the grandkids’ eyes lit up and they wanted a piece of the action. ‘Oops!’ To insure we’ll still be having our special Christmas-for-two, I’ll instead be cooking duck breasts with plum sauce & trimmings—and, sticking with tradition, Christmas pudding and brandy butter for dessert. Aside from the cooking, it’ll be a blissful ‘chill day’. And I’m going to lap it up… not least because I’ll be feeding 12 on Boxing Day!