Saturday 24 August 2019

The nine ages of Christmas: How your festive spirit levels depend a lot on your age

The baffled baby years
The baffled baby years
The doting grandparent years
The smug coupley years
The soppy parent years
The Santa excitement years
The drunken hedonist years

Michael Hogan

Slade songs. Office parties. Astronomical expense. Christmas is Christmas, one might assume - but it actually depends how old you are.

Yes, your Yuletide experience subtly shifts as you progress through life and can be divided into nine distinct festive phases - some much more fun than others.

Age 0-2: The baffled baby years

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The baffled baby years

"Why is a tree suddenly growing indoors? Why are woolly socks hanging all over the house? Why is daddy boiling up wine and drinking it during the daytime?"

Profound questions pondered by an infant who doesn't yet comprehend Christmas. Meanwhile, the helpless mite gets wrestled into cutesy reindeer rompers, endlessly photographed and kissed by moustachioed old ladies who smell of Murray mints.

Festive food and drink: Mashed-up roast veg. Milk that tastes vaguely of all the booze your mummy's drunk and makes you veeery sleeeeeeeepy.

What's in your stocking: Cuddly toys, wooden toys, squeaky and chewy toys. But way more excitingly: wrapping paper and cardboard boxes. Oh happy, if confusing, day!

Age 3-9: The Santa excitement years

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The Santa excitement years

That wide-eyed era when the magical sleigh-flying dude who somehow squeezes his obese frame down the chimney is all they can think about.

Just don't ask them to sit on his lap in a grotto because they'll get the fear. Nativity plays and Advent calendars figure highly. Basically, this is Peak Christmas. All downhill from here.

Festive food and drink: Mainly chocolate. Roast potatoes and pigs-in-blankets are the only acceptable elements of Christmas dinner.

What's in your stocking: Reductive gender stereotypes apply, so it's Nerf guns/football/Star Wars for him, dolls/pink/Disney for her. They'll also want that year's "must-have It-toy" and an iSomething. They will get neither. Tough life.

Age 10-17: The hormonal diva years

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"You're so ungrateful. You treat this place like a hotel." Either in training to be a surly, door-slamming teenager or actually already one, this is the tough stint.

You're suddenly expected to do your own Christmas shopping (so unfair!), help around the house (get off my back!) and look after grandparents (bor-ing!) when you'd far rather be sleeping or sulkily fiddling with a mobile.

Festive food and drink: Several portions of everything. You're perma-hungry, so eat the oldsters out of house and home - then peer in the fridge, wondering why there isn't more.

What's in your stocking: Despite your repeated request for "just the money", they insist on buying you a present that's slightly but crucially wrong.

Age 18-28: The drunken hedonist years

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The drunken hedonist years

You're now a student or twentysomething festive funtimes raver, so December is one long party. You're doing Jägerbombs with your old school mates into the wee small hours on Christmas Eve. Ditto St Stephen's Day.

Mainly having epic lie-ins or texting in between. Your mum's "a bit worried about you" because you look "bloodshot and puffy". Your dad's giving you a conspiratorial wink and pouring you another. Cheers!

Festive food and drink: Booze-based diet and then binge-eating anything meaty, cheesy or crispy snack-based when you get the munchies.

What's in your stocking: You want a car or some tech. You get a duvet cover, some books you'll never read and a novelty festive jumper.

Age 29-35: The smug coupley years

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The smug coupley years

Paired up and pleased with yourself, you spend December joined at the hip to your true love like soppy Siamese twins in matchy-matchy knitwear.

You go ice-skating together, brown-nose each other's parents, host try-hard drinks parties, exchange twee personalised gifts and generally nauseate everyone by being full of happiness, hygge and hugs.

Festive food and drink: Loads of elaborate roast dinners and earnest raising of toasts - with your folks, with your in-laws, with your smug coupley mates. You're such a foodie!

What's in your stocking: Tasteful clothes, thoughtful accessories and nest-feathering housey things. Perhaps even a surprise ring?

Age 36-54: The soppy parent years

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The soppy parent years

Determined to be the most festive parents on Facebook, December is a snow-sprayed whirl of Winter Wonderland rip-offs, school plays and Frozen/Elf viewings.

Days are spent "crafting" with the kids (ie. getting glitter glued to your face), driving them to visit relatives ("Are we nearly there yet?") and helping build (ie. swearing under your breath at) their new Lego.

Festive food and drink: By the evening, you're too knackered to do anything but slump in front of festive TV specials, chain-eat Quality Street and drink Bailey's until you nod off on the sofa, waking with a start to see you've slobbered down your new cardi. Rock'n'roll.

What's in your stocking: A Nutribullet, an overpriced scarf, one of those comedy Ladybird/Famous Five books and some artisanal olive oil.

Age 55-65: The mid-life largesse years

The kids might pop in for a day but you're largely, blissfully left to your own devices, able to enjoy a second wind of carefree hedonism.

This might involve Christmas abroad (gasp!) or at the very least a weekend in a boutique country hotel, letting some other sucker take the strain. You practically live on Bloody Marys, champagne, blinis and cheeseboards.

Festive food and drink: When you're not dining out, you've got a groaning fridgeful of food at home, mixing Lidl/Aldi bargains with posh M&S fare.

What's in your stocking: A nice bottle of single malt or craft gin. Pass the milk thistle and Andrews Salts.

Age 66-79: The doting grandparent years

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The doting grandparent years

The real burden of entertaining and being generally Christmassy has passed to your children, freeing you up to savour the good stuff: eating, drinking, napping, parping and adoring the grandkids.

Until they start crying, fighting or being annoying, when you can beatifically pass the buck and watch a classic film.

Festive food and drink: All the trimmings, cooked by somebody else. All you need to do is half-heartedly offer to help, get turned down and happily return to your corner for more sugared almonds and mulled wine.

What's in your stocking: Nobody knows what to buy you these days, so probably socks and gloves.

Age 80 onwards: The Scrooge years

You've served your time on the festive frontline, so have earned the right to be a proper pain in the backside about it now.

You demand to be ferried around by family members, then plonked in the best armchair, where you alternate between napping, being waited upon and complaining.

Everything was better in your day, after all. But you secretly love being in the midst of your family, the noisy buggers.

Festive food and drink: No sprouts or parsnips, thanks (they give you chronic wind) and only soft-centred chocolates, what with these dentures.

What's in your stocking: Framed photos, history audiobooks, antique knick-knacks. Anything to make you come over dewy-eyed. Now, time for another nap…

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