Every year when November rolls around, I get caught up in the excitement, and every year Christmas does not live up to the hype. It’s not that I hate Christmas, it’s just that it never quite delivers. So this year, I’ve decided to do the wise and mature thing and not expect too much. Limited expectations equals limited disappointments. At least that’s the theory.
This year we’ve decided to stay at home and cook Christmas dinner ourselves for the first time ever (wish me luck). It means we can wake up at home and go to bed at home, which is a novelty in itself as far as Christmas Day goes. (And probably wise given our daughter’s love/hate relationship with sleep…)
I am holding out high hopes (must manage those expectations!) that these small changes to our usual schedule may result in less stressful festivities. Because just contemplating all of the many, many ways in which the holiday season leaves me fatigued is, frankly, fatiguing…
1. Forced Joviality
‘Smile, it might never happen!’ – never was a more patronising remark made. ‘Gi’s a smile, Luv, it’s Christmas!’ is a close second (though I’d venture this is more insulting).
Being jolly based purely on the date is absurd.
2. Secret Santa
The contrived process of allocating names (I have never taken part in a Secret Santa which remained secret); the budget you’re each assigned (and expected to purchase the perfect gift, no less); the pressure of buying for somebody you either don’t know or don’t like? Tedium incarnate.
3. Office Parties
Awesome when you’re twenty-two and gleefully anticipating the opportunity to ‘inadvertently’ bump – or grind, I don’t judge – into your office crush under the mistletoe. Otherwise this is a disaster waiting to happen. No office Christmas shindig is complete without a wayward boob/Wendy in accounts telling the boss he’s a filthy old perv/Kevin and Ang doing the dirty and Kevin’s wife arriving unannounced. *cringe*
4. Christmas Freedom
Being stuck in the office on Christmas Eve and back in there between Boxing Day and New Year should be against the law. When that was my reality several years running, the wonderful, elusive, beautiful notion of freedom elicited such excitement in me. And yet somehow, it hasn’t quite measured up to my expectations.
The best thing about being outside of an office during the week is the peace and quietude.
But from midway through November, I can’t go anywhere without having my personal space invaded/being inadvertently fondled by strangers.
Besides which, an obligation to spend a lot of money on people who often don’t even speak to me for weeks at a time is just weird. Do I resent it? Yes, yes I do.
6. Shopping with a Toddler
No explanation required.
7. Limiting the Crap Bought for My Child
Throughout the year I drop subtle – and not so subtle – hints about our daughter’s bank account. And our lack of space at home. And her many, many toys. But, naturally, it would be churlish to do anything other than be grateful for Yet. More. Crap.
8. Buying Crap for Others
I think I spend more time thinking about what to buy for others than I do actually shopping. Then there’s the Annual Budget Debate with my husband (if he was given carte blanche we would probably have remortgaged the house by now). Knowing that gifts will inevitably be wrong and thrown to the back of the cupboard inclines me towards frugality. Soz.
9. Wrapping Crap
If I had ten days in my weeks instead of seven, I wouldn’t mind allocating one of them to wrapping those unwanted gifts; it can actually be quite therapeutic. But I struggle to justify spending hours making something look pretty when it will quite literally be torn apart and thrown in the bin.
10. Spending on Paper and Cards
See above. (Wouldn’t it be great if they brought out paper money for smaller denominations? That way you could save yourself the trouble of going to a busy shop to swap your hard-earned tender for paper that’s specifically designed for the job of parcelling goods, and simply wrap your pressies in cash instead! I might put this one to our local MP.) Also, it’s so wasteful.
11. Exchanging Gifts (Awkwardness)
I feel under so much pressure to react the ‘correct’ way when I open any gift, that I’ve developed performance anxiety.
I’m not kidding; I hate opening presents in front of the bestower – even when it’s the perfect gift.
12. Gift Guilt
I know you don’t give to receive; duh, everyone knows that. They just don’t believe it. And what’s worse than spending a fiver on a funny token pressie, only to be rewarded with a very thoughtful and very expensive gift in return? No, no, it’s okay, don’t guess – let me tell you: to be the recipient of the cheap gift. I’m not talking resentment or envy or anything so crass. No, it’s the embarrassment!
(This is the reason my husband and I have the Annual Budget Debate Every. Single. Year. Dissecting our familial interactions throughout the year is an imperative in order to identify that sweet spot of what we anticipate receiving, so we can ensure we reciprocate appropriately. This should be an Olympic sport.)
Bad enough when you are two, adding a baby and toddler into the mix is not my idea of fun.
14. Lugging Shit Around
Loading the car to return home, laden with gifts in addition to all of the things (see above) is like a life-size game of Jenga or Buckeroo: you’re only one false move away from an obstructed windscreen or an awkward trip to A&E.
15. Finding Homes for Unnecessary Crap
Of course when you make it back, you have to find somewhere to put all of your new crap. And his new crap. And the children’s new crap. (I have a dedicated space in my bathroom cupboard for unwanted toiletries – they’re fab for re-gifting. Just be certain to retain tags to avoid an embarrassing situation of ‘I loved it SO much I bought the same for you…’
16. Gaining Weight and Feeling Shite
We all allow ourselves to indulge over Christmas, and rightly so if we’re relatively good for the rest of the year. But personally I can’t stand feeling bloated and sluggish and spotty and gross. Is it worth it? I’m on the fence because in stressful family situations it’s basically the law to get drunk and eat All. Of. The. Treats.
You know how the first night at Mum’s with the siblings you’ve not seen for six months is loads of fun and full of hilarity? Ever noticed how it just gets better and better thereafter? Nah, me neither.
18. Fitting Everyone In
Maybe the worst of all. You’re lucky if you’re parents are still together: divorce is prevalent among the Baby Boomers (I wrote about how we’re doing marriage better here). And this makes Christmas that much tougher on the children and grandchildren. First you have to choose between families (his or yours), and then you have to pick your favourite parent – or at least that’s often how they’d have you feel. #christmasguilts
Do I Hate Christmas?
As I began writing this list, I thought I’d struggle to reach ten points I could write solid reasoning for. And then eighteen tripped off my fingertips without me even thinking hard about it. I think it’s time to accept that I am, essentially, a closet scrooge. I don’t want to be – I fight it with every ounce of strength (considerable, thanks to toddler weightlifting). Alas, the ghost of Christmas Past would have his work cut out with me. Despite my wishes to the contrary, the truth of the matter is there are many aspects of the holiday season I detest.
That said, I’m not completely giving up on myself – I am still totally determined to take my girls to Lapland in a few years time – and I can’t wait! Yes, I know it will cost close to one thousand pounds per day – or approximately SEVENTY PENCE PER MINUTE. And yes, I am inclined towards thriftiness. Yet still I think Lapland is totally worth it. (Check out these fab UK Christmas markets for a cheaper festive experience, without going abroad!)
Now I come to think of it, I’d quite like to do New York at Christmas too (but only if there’s lots of snow). And I adore festive films! I want to experience yuletide as an innocent child again. Ultimately, I’m a big kid at heart and resent the fact that I am now an adult and as such, if I want Noel to be magic, then it’s my responsibility to make that magic happen.
So, do I hate Christmas? It’s probably fair to say I’m in love with the idea of Christmas. But the effort that goes into making that shit come together? Bleughhh.
By the time I’m done wrapping presents, the only Christmas spirit running through my veins is going to be 20% proof.
Until Lapland anyway.
So apparently I hate Christmas! Do you identify with these Christmas stressors, or are you a diehard festive fan?