Sunday 25 September 2016

Ian O'Doherty: 'Forget the Grinches - have a great Christmas'

Published 20/12/2015 | 02:30

Life lessons: The opening 20 minutes of Pixar’s Up are among the film-industry’s most upsetting
Life lessons: The opening 20 minutes of Pixar’s Up are among the film-industry’s most upsetting
Lord of the ring: Conor McGregor

So, you got everything done?

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Have you decked the bows with holly? Have you had one of those lovely seasonal moments where you and your family basked in the warm glow of mutual love and adoration? Got all the presents sorted?

No, of course you haven't, because this is the time of the year when everyone seems to completely lose their marbles as they succumb to the stress and pressure of the season. And it's all entirely self-inflicted.

I love Christmas. I didn't particularly like it when I was growing up, largely because I had a typical Irish mother who was only happy when she was moaning. In fact, it was only when I moved out of the house and started my own life that I realised something which had never occurred to me before - Christmas is what you make it. Nothing more, nothing less.

All that pressure. All the fuss and stress and angst. It's easy to become so addicted to the anxiety that you forget this is the time of the year when you're meant to kick back and relax a little.

There's an almost Zen-like sense of liberation once you realise that you have two choices - you can allow yourself to become completely frazzled. Or you can simply take a deep breath and go with the flow - things will get done, or they won't.

Both my parents died in the last few years and it's inevitable - and a cliché - that my thoughts tend to turn towards them every December. The one thing I remember about all the Christmases I had while growing up was the sense of barely suppressed panic as the Ma worried about everything from whether the turkey was going to poison us to whether the tree was standing straight.

No drama was too small, no headache too trivial. Essentially, Ma became hooked on hassle.

Me? Well, as a result of growing up in a home where every Christmas was a potential landmine of angst and fury, I have become quite the expert when it comes to goofing off and enjoying myself.

I'll either get all the presents I need to get - or I won't. There won't be any frenzied panic buying on Christmas Eve. Things either get done or they don't and nobody remembers one way or the other.

Christmas starts with the first viewing of either Elf or Bad Santa.

Neither of them are particularly good movies, but they've both become a tradition in many households, alongside the Christmas morning blubfest that is It's a Wonderful Life - if you're only going to watch only one Christmas movie about a suicidal banker having a nervous breakdown, then this is surely the one for you.

But, whatever you do, don't make the same mistake I made two years ago - after choking back the usual manly tears during the Frank Capra classic, I suggested that we watch Up. I reckon the opening 20 minutes of that film are among the most upsetting I've ever seen and as the missus sat on the couch, balling her eyes out at 3 in the afternoon and calling me a bastard for tricking her into watching it, I realised one thing - I could simply change the channel. That's the Christmas lesson - no matter how hard the pressure is coming down on your head, you can always turn it off.

I wish that thought had occurred to my mother when she was still alive and I'm sure you know someone like that - someone so used to being pressurised that the idea of relaxing actually freaks them out.

So, go off and have a ball - eat too much. Drink too much. Stay in your pyjamas for days on end. Enjoy yourself. Stress is contagious and nobody wants to spend the Christmas holidays around someone who is on the verge of a nervous breakdown so, when things get too much, take a life lesson from Up - just switch off.

BTW...

There's no doubt that Conor McGregor deserves to be crowned the Irish Sports Personality of the Year.

His dedication, skill and chutzpah have catapulted him into the big leagues and the man deserves all the plaudits he will receive. But UFC sucks.

Like many people, I stayed up til 6 in the morning last Saturday, waiting to see the long-awaited bout between the Crumlin fighter and José Aldo but McGregor's knockout won't be the memory I take from that late night joust.

No, it was the under card that remains seared into the brain.

The brutality of UFC is one of its attractions, but people often forget just how incredibly boring it can be.

The fight between Gunnar Nelson and Demian Maia was one of the weirdest and most unpleasant fights I've ever seen on the box.

Basically, Brazilian jujitsu expert Maia hopped on the larger man's back and proceeded to land 193 punches over the course of three rounds.

Fair play to anyone who can land that number of digs, but as he straddled Nelson's back - it is an undeniably homoerotic sport - the whole tawdry spectacle reminded me of the scene from Lord of the Rings when Gollum tried to strangle Frodo. I wish McGregor the best, I really do. But give me good old boxing any day of the week.

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