Expectations are mounting. That massive to-do list is reaching biblical proportions, you’ve squandered more money in a month than you can afford and no one really knows why they’re doing any of this…
As ever the dream is your Christmas will be like a seasonal Andy Williams special, but the reality is closer to a Slipknot music video… As we realise we’re not living up to the perfect image of Hollywood Christmases, the worry we’re not devoting enough time or filled with enough love creeps in. Why aren’t we glamorous? Why does my home look like a crack house compared to Val Doonican’s? We need to embrace what makes this time so special, like over-scheduling, shameless cash-in albums and inconvenient family traditions.
Are you disillusioned by the promises of clever marketing? Have you spent 200 man-hours garishly decorating your house, so it now looks like the kitsch-laden set of a Lady Gaga biopic? Ever spend hours on a treasured recipe, only to find no one shared your enthusiasm? Did you find the ideal gift, only to have it dismissed by the recipient?
Christmas was flawed from the start. It originally saw an impressionable first-time mother staying in sub-standard accommodation, with a stepfather struggling to care for his growing family, an unwitting baby and an endless stream of bloody visitors coming in, drinking their booze and disrupting the day. They didn’t even have the Coca-Cola advert to warm their hearts. So put away your own expectations, it’s going to be a long hard slog with scant reward. At least one person will be sick, someone will be sobbing and another will start an argument. Let’s make sure this isn’t you.
The most humble circumstances can be the memories of a lifetime. The real gifts are the things we already possess. It’s a chance to reflect on our blessings, get drunk on unusual spirits, spill candlewax on a new carpet and verbally abuse rubbish carollers. The simplest pleasures can fill us all with joy, the smile on a child’s face as they open a present, the gentle farting of a grandparent during ‘Doctor Who’ or a triumphant 5-0 victory on ‘FIFA 16’.
Whilst some may use the festival to rediscover meaning and purpose in their lives, others simply let the holiday descend into a mulled cider-fuelled apocalypse. How do we strike a balance? Can we be full of seasonal joy, without actually interacting with those family members you’ve foolishly invited over? So to find out how to make the holidays perfect, we hooked up with housewife extraordinaire and occasional agony aunt Barbara Nice, to get some tips on creating a magical December.
I generally leave everything until the last minute, buy too much alcohol and get a tree that looks like it’s been plucked from a warzone. How can I avoid messing up this Christmas?
“We all do it our own way, love, but probably best to leave the Malibu alone till the tree is up, the turkey is stuffed and the sprouts are on.”
How many is ‘too many decorations”?
“Again, it’s an individual choice kid. Fashions come and go decoration-wise – I can remember sausages of pleated cotton wool for snow being big – but no one does it anymore.”
Where do you stand on festive newsletters? I have a plethora of utterly mundane experiences and vicarious triumphs to share with people I barely know. Am I just seeking attention?
“Yes love, you are love. I suggest you stop sending them. No one likes a show off.”
Buying the perfect present is vital to my Christmas, but I have little spare time amongst my busy daytime TV schedule. How can I rustle up the ultimate gifts with the minimum effort?
“Scratch cards always go down well I find, as long as they share if they win… But, the true spirit of Christmas isn’t just a large Malibu…”
It’s Christmas morning! What do you do if everyone wants to get up a lot earlier than you? Often I’ve only been home for about 90 minutes, especially if there was a good Midnight Mass the night before.
“You’re entitled to a bit of a lie-in but to avoid problems later on, get the first person up to put the sprouts on a low heat for you.”
I wanted an Xbox, but received nothing more dazzling than a pair of novelty socks. How do you cover your crushing disappointment?
“How did you know I’ve got you light-up musical Kim Kardashian socks? Have you been rooting through the back of my wardrobe?”
The family are here! There are the in-laws, aunts and uncles, some interchangeable cousins and my unbalanced sister with her incontinent dog. No one is fooled by the facade of niceness. You can feel the contempt in the air. How do I make sure everyone just gets along?
No matter how hard I try, I always end up with an uninvited guest at Christmas. You know the sort; a single family member who gets drunk and over-emotional, the creepy half-cousin who is undoubtedly a bad influence on the kids or a random boyfriend who starts exhibiting sociopathic tendencies at the dinner table. How do I deal with these people?
“These are the people that make Christmas special. They stop it becoming just another day and they are to be encouraged. Jesus was an uninvited guest in the stable after all…”
It’s just after the Queen’s speech; my accumulated sugar rush is now bringing highs normally reached only by the most enthusiastic crack fiends. Should I stop eating?
“No, you need to keep going till you’re in a proper food coma. I recommend Terry’s Chocolate Orange. The segments are generally manageable. Little, but often #toptip”
Have you ever noticed how annoying other people’s kids are? Is there an easy solution to coping with the perfect storm of complaining and disobedience that accompanies them?
“Baileys. Tell them it’s hot chocolate; they’ll sleep the afternoon off.”
If I have to look at the photos from Uncle Bob’s dubious holiday in South East Asia I will most likely run amok with the carving knife. Have you any ideas on festive fun?
“I don’t think you can beat a game of ‘Split the Kipper’”.
The majority of my family haven’t realised playing Monopoly is possibly the most fruitless and boring activity in the known universe. How do I get out of the obligatory post-dinner board games? I’ve already washed up and walked my sister’s dog (not that this act has saved my floor…).
“In this situation I would probably go on Rightmove and look at beach properties in Bulgaria.”
The day is over. Everyone has either left or is asleep in front of ‘Only Fools and Horses’. How do we cope with the sad realisation Christmas will never be as joyous as a John Lewis advert?
“More Malibu and Baileys and a large box of Quality Street!”
Celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus comes to venues around the planet on Fri 25 Dec, as part of Christmas.