Tis the season to be jolly. Really, it is....

Ellen's children prepare for Christmas

Ellen's children prepare for Christmas - Credit: Archant

Ellen Widdup’s escape to the country

All the things I love about Christmas are the things my husband hates.

Chestnuts. Board games. Huge family gatherings. Spending excessive amounts of money. Crackers, paper hats, tinsel and baubles. Hyperactive children. Gluttonous quantities of food. Leftover turkey. The family quiz. Listening to Mariah Carey in public.

“Well, what would be your perfect Christmas, then?” I asked him with some degree of exasperation after one particular bout of “Bah Humbug” moaning.

He thought for a moment.

“Me, the TV and a nice cold beer,” he replied.

“Oh,” I muttered as I painstakingly put together a wreath of holly and fern for the front door. “You mean it would just be like the other 364 days of the year.”

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I have to admit when it comes to Christmas my husband and I are polar opposites. Come to think of it, we have very little in common at any other time of the year either. I can’t think why our marriage works.

By the end of November I am raring to put up the Christmas decorations. He is adamant that we wait until a week before the big day. We compromise somewhere in the middle – usually because I just go ahead and get them all out while he is at work.

Last year I put lights in the tree outside our front door.

“You are lowering the tone of the neighbourhood,” he told me disapprovingly as I teetered halfway up a ladder in the bitter cold.

This year the kids and I have gone all out. We bought the biggest tree possible and have put on absolutely every star, string of lights and garish ornament we could find.

There is no such thing as matching bows and baubles in the Widdup household. We go for violently garish and glitter-based. Another thing my husband doesn’t like.

“It’s very bright,” was his verdict upon returning home to our shrine to shiny plastic.

Another area of Christmas my husband particularly dislikes is shopping.

It gets him all flustered.

When the children were really tiny I made the mistake of taking him with me on a jolly jaunt to Toys R Us for Thursday night late opening.

A Christmas hit from Wham blared out from the speakers, swarming crowds of crazed parents pushed and shoved their way down aisles and queues of people snaked from each till.

I saw a look of sheer terror on his face and after just five minutes browsing he said he had to leave or he might have some kind of nervous breakdown.

He’s not the only one that feels like this about present buying.

Recent research by a psychologist has found that Christmas shopping is so stressful it triggers the primal “fight or flight” response.

Dr David Lewis says people become aggressive while doing their shopping because the crowds activate basic survival mechanisms.

He says it also makes some people anxious and exhausted, with people from the countryside most at risk as they’re unused to crowds.

Has Dr Lewis – or indeed my husband – heard of the Internet?

Last year I tried to buy all my presents locally. It was a valiant attempt to do my bit to protect our struggling small stores competing with the online giants.

To some extent it worked but unfortunately I found it difficult to locate some of the goods I was after.

So this year, as well as enjoying the little gems on offer in our market towns, I have filled the gaps using the world wide web.

One or two clicks and bang, it all arrived on the doorstep ready to be wrapped.

I also sent my husband the customary list of things he might like to buy me (you may remember from a previous column how utterly useless he is at choosing gifts).

The list even included discount codes for the stores I had found through Google.

A quick glance at our joint bank account, however, reveals he has not yet purchased a thing.

Present giving is part and parcel (excuse the pun) of any Christmas Day, isn’t it?

There is nothing more wonderful than watching the faces of your children as they wake to find a bulging stocking at the end of the bed.

It is traditions like these that make Christmas so special.

From that first sniff of cinnamon to that uncomfortable fullness as you sit surrounded by the detritus of a long turkey dinner, it wraps you in the comfort of the familiar.

Cracker jokes, all-day pyjamas, the tin of Cadbury’s Roses, alcohol for breakfast, candles on the table, re-runs of The Royle Family and the whole clan falling asleep within minutes of the afternoon film starting.

I reminded my husband of all these magic moments.

Perhaps he could muster up a glimmer of excitement for the festivities to come.

“You make me sound like a right old Scrooge,” he said. “I do like some parts of Christmas.”

“Name just one thing,” I replied. “One thing you love about it.”

“I love how much you love it,” he replied.

Ok, now I remember why I married him.

Please email me at EllenWiddup@journalist.com or find me on Twitter @EllenWiddup.

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