Friday 20 September 2019

This Christmas just say yes

When you wobble about committing to all those party invites and festive duties like stuffing the turkey and wrapping pressies, Melanie Morris recommends that you lean right in, switch off the preconceptions and switch on the 'out of office'

Give in to the Christmas spirit with gusto
Give in to the Christmas spirit with gusto

There comes a time in the run up to Christmas where you find yourself on a precipice… you're stuck in hideous traffic, possibly trying to get in to a car park - any car park - that isn't glaring with a red "full up" light. It's busy, it's wet, it's sweaty and it's hell. There's an overwhelming temptation to turn around, go home and spend the next few weeks in a heightened state of "bah humbug" as you rail against the excessive commerciality of what Christmas has become.

How much easier would it be all round to ignore the festive season? Or at least to just perform the perfunctory duties - buy the presents for kids (bulk purchased in 3 for 2 deals), attend the work Christmas party (driving, so you won't drink more than the one, and then get out early), buy the cake, the pud and a pre-stuffed turkey breast, and avoid all other festive interactions.

You could do all of that, and nobody would blame you for doing so, but would it actually make things any better? Do you really want to be at home, watching the X Factor final when everyone else is meeting up with returned friends and family?

The random Christmas night out that works, after all, is still one of life's great glories… the one that doesn't is hell on earth.

"Doing" Christmas from the sidelines would make life so much easier. But in truth, who wants easy? Who really wants the path of least resistance when there's life to live and history to be written?

To approach Christmas in a half-hearted, box-ticking way completely misses the point. Like, where is the fun in an artificial tree? Sure, it's convenient, less messy and can make a return appearance year-after-year, when not stashed in a bin bag under the stairs. But it smells of nothing (except bin bag); there's none of that lovely comfort of pine that infuses the air when fairy lights and central heating warm those needles.

And yes, wrapping presents is a pain in the neck. Who has the time or energy to wrestle with ribbon, or find the start of the Sellotape when shops will package purchases. Fair enough, but is that not purely advertising? And does it not spoil the whole surprise of what might be under the tree when it comes in a giant, fancy Clarins (or similar) box?

So go on, download Michael Buble's Christmas album and play it for as long as it takes to parcel up with pride. If you can't get around to paper, ribbon and bow, then at least invest in tissue and some fun/pretty gift bags and let the suspense last a bit longer.

Christmas cards are things that many have consigned to nostalgia, but would you rather be one of the memorable few who has, or one of the many who have not bothered? It takes effort to keep friendships alive, but here's a way to remind those who you may not see enough that you still think about them, and care.

So many Christmas traditions may be becoming outdated; the letter to Santa (has he not gone digital yet?), the advent calendar, board games and watching a movie on TV - together, as a family - and yet they still hold a special place in our traditions. Why? Perhaps because Christmas is the last time of the year we all get to escape from modern, mile-a-minute lifestyles, and focus on things with far richer value: family, friends, children and activities that knit us tightly together.

So when that agonising Christmas make-or-break moment happens to you; the moment you wobble about committing to all those festive demands, I say lean in. Lean right in and fall forward. Wear the Christmas jumper; heck, throw some battery-powered fairy lights around your shoulders while you're at it, and stick a Rudolph nose on your car bumper too and go to your office party, by taxi. Then, accept the invitation of your spouse's work do too, as well as any - and every - other party someone is kind enough to invite you too.

Sing carols loudly at Midnight Mass, ignore family squabbles, switch off the preconceptions and switch on the 'out of office'. Eat the pies, all of them, and the tin of Quality Street while watching the Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special. Because as sure as Crème Eggs come out on St Stephen's Day, by the time the New Year dawns and Operation Transformation hits the screens, all you'll have to keep you warm will be your memories.

So this year, I say give in to the Christmas spirit with gusto. Just say yes… to everything.

Irish Independent

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