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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Keep calm and carry on.
The wartime slogan may help to sustain you through the next month of Christmas-induced stress and may even offer a gift solution as you can buy it emblazoned on mugs, T-shirts, tea towels, blackberry covers (the mobile not the fruit), tote bags, cuff links, doormats, cushions, hoodies, deckchairs, biscuits, table-mats, coasters, chefs’ aprons and posters.
So need to panic buy.
I have a confession. I made my first Christmas-themed purchase in early October. It was a tin of biscuits that doubles as a music box which plays a barely recognisable Christmas tune.
It is quite the worst one of its kind I have ever heard and I feel able to give it only to a tone-deaf friend or relative.
Oh, and there was the nice green glass vase I bought in a sale in July that has been set aside as one of those “just in case they buy us something” presents.
This was going to be the year I made our Christmas cards. Eric, my old college friend who lives in Southport, has always sent a hand-crafted card, individually signed by each member of the family.
Tim, in Guildford, draws a cartoon strip of his year. Judith and Brian’s card from Sheffield is usually a photograph taken in some exotic part of the world they have visited. One year it was a lovely picture of African front doors.
Embarrassed by my lack of invention, I decided 2011 would see the creation of Lynne’s Turner-prize winning Christmas cards. But now it is time to admit that it’s not going to happen. Can’t be bothered.
In the spirit of continuing austerity, I settled on the idea of using brown parcel paper for wrapping presents and then I went to Bond’s (John Lewis) in Norwich and my resolve melted away as soon as I saw the paper with the holly leaves design.
This Christmas, we definitely did not need to buy any more battery-powered strings of lights... but they were three packs for the price of two in M&S.
For 11 months of the year we dwell in the half-light of energy saving light bulbs. We deserve a bit of extra wattage at Christmas.
As for my husband, it’s all about crackers. You see, it’s only November and it’s already getting silly. What we all need is a keeping-it-in-check check list.
Have you (be honest):
1. Set aside a room, or a space, for Christmas stuff? (eg the bottom of the wardrobe, the attic, the garage)
2. Have you started writing a list of supplies you need to acquire in order to survive the entire... er... 48 hours before all the supermarkets are open again? Have you frozen enough loaves of bread?
3. Have you written and addressed all the Christmas cards (except for the overseas one which you posted last week)?
4. Are you redecorating the sitting room in anticipation of the flood of four people who will be joining you on Christmas day?
5. Have you made a vat of cranberry sauce?
6. Are you vexed because you don’t yet have a copy of the Christmas television listings in order to plan your viewing?
7. Have you bought in enough mixer drinks to serve the whole of your post code area with gin and tonic?
8. Have you and your partner had the compulsory annual row about going away for Christmas?
9. Are all the bathroom sprays now scented with cinnamon and cloves or frankincense and myrrh?
10. Are you on a strict diet so you can eat continuously throughout Christmas?
If you have answered yes to more than two of the above you are suffering from an acute case of premature Christmas.
There is no need to be embarrassed, it is very common and there will be many other people out there suffering with exactly the same condition.
Here are some self-help remedies:
n Try and focus on something else... the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, for example. Don’t be distracted by a a festive wreath or a bauble.
n Think minimal. (I don’t mean you should buy everyone skimpy underwear*). Assess how much you really need a chocolate Yule log, for example.
n Be strict with yourself. Calculate how many sprouts it takes to produce enough greenhouse gases to puncture the ozone layer and buy a couple fewer.
n Why not have an historically themed Christmas?
Victorian: Give everyone an orange and a walnut, sing a carol and go back to work on Boxing Day.
Ancient Briton: Dress up warm and go for it under the mistletoe**.
n Don’t allow yourself to become gooey with seasonal joy. Wean yourself off by listening exclusively to Cliff Richard Christmas number ones until you feel your skin has thickened to the point where you are strong enough to walk past a baby dressed as Santa without going “aah”.
* This is not a hint
** Nor is this