Ian O'Doherty: Despite all our troubles, let's bask in the magic of Christmas
Well, we're nearly there. I know it's been the darkest year that many of us have ever experienced and we certainly won't look back on 2011 with any affection -- if anything, any recollection will see us all wince and shudder at the memory of the pay cuts, the tax hikes and all the other stuff that so unsettled us over the last 12 months.
But you know what?
We're a couple of days away from the biggest day of the year and if ever there was a year that could justify us all letting our hair down and descending into hedonistic fun for a few days, then surely this is it.
After all, never has it been truer that we've earned it.
As regular readers will know, this is my favourite time of the year and what makes it even better is that as I'm typing this I'm looking out the window and ... there's no snow.
Yup, cast your mind back 12 months and remember the misery we were all feeling: trying to meander around town doing a bit of Christmas shopping was like trying to negotiate an ice rink; office parties were cancelled left, right and centre; and while many of us would be forgiven for thinking that that wasn't such a bad thing, the blizzards and whiteouts that we endured put a complete dampener on the whole festive spirit -- a white Christmas, as we learned to our chagrin, is obviously better in theory than in practice.
So at least we have the weather on our side this year, but the most important thing we have, the best gift we have, is each other.
I know that sounds ridiculously schmaltzy and not the kind of sentiment I would normally express in this column but then I suppose that's the whole joy of Christmas -- we get to be unapologetically sentimental and loved-up and can try, temporarily at least, to try and put all the bad stuff behind us and just concentrate on having fun.
Rather remarkably, and I'm quite absurdly proud of myself, I have actually managed to get some presents in already.
This is a rather unique turn of events, but I spent much of Wednesday schlepping around town desperately trying to pick up the right things.
I'm not a particularly good present-shopper, which is irritating because my wife, Sarah, seems to have an innate knack for getting me exactly what I want -- even when I wasn't aware that I wanted it.
So, with the presents pretty much done, what have I got planned for the next few days?
Well, as soon as I finish writing this, I'm going to the pub. I do find that a few stiffening drinks is just the thing you need to brace yourself for picking up the last little knick-knacks.
When I'm done with picking up all the last-minute things, I'm off to my local butcher, Ennis's of Rialto -- the best butcher in Dublin, but don't tell anyone, I want to keep him for myself -- where I'll pick up all the usual goodies: a good Bronze turkey, smoked and plain ham with all the vegetables and some of the great goose fat that he sells, which make for the most amazingly crispy roast potatoes you will ever eat.
Frankly, the whole centrepiece of my Christmas is cooking the dinner.
A lot of people dread the prospect of cooking the Crimbo dinner, but it's actually easy and there's just one trick: get yourself a glass of champagne and potter around the kitchen for the day in blissfully relaxed mood and tell your guests, if you have any, that the dinner will be ready when it's bloody well ready.
After all, if they're hungry before it's served, then they can just open up that tin of Roses that seems to magically appear in every Irish household at this time of the year.
But first ... it has to be It's A Wonderful Life.
The greatest Christmas movie ever made, people tend to forget just how incredibly dark it actually is.
After all, the whole plot is predicated on a banker about to commit suicide on Christmas Eve.
Now, I know that having any sympathy for a banker is not exactly common around these here parts at the moment, but when it comes James Stewart and his incredible character George Bailey, then it's allowed.
After all, Bailey finds himself screwed over by an even bigger banker, Mr Potter, so now more than ever, this 1946 classic has a disturbingly contemporary feel.
It's on at 9.35am on Christmas Day on TV3 and will be the best thing that channel shows all year.
In fact, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who watch It's A Wonderful Life with tears in their eyes as they mouth along with the dialogue, and people who have no soul.
After all, can you honestly say that by the time the redemptive phrase, "We love you, George Bailey" comes around, you don't have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye? It's just beautiful.
There are already presents under our tree, which is a bit of a problem because I have two rather spoiled and extremely curious dogs who are determined to get to the parcels before Christmas Eve, when we swap gifts.
That is probably the most transcendent moment of the year, when all the worries that have been keeping us awake are, temporarily at least, forgotten and replaced by the simple joy of giving someone you love a gift.
Sure, the present budget is rather slimmer than it was last year, but Christmas gifts were never really about money anyway.
No, we'll swap the gifts on Christmas Eve, get up early to watch It's A Wonderful Life, and then I'll spend the day in the kitchen before watching the Queen's Speech and having a snooze in the afternoon -- hey, it's Christmas and it's the law that you have to have a nap after your dinner and then wake up just in time for whatever James Bond movie they're showing.
Jesus (as it were), I love Christmas.
Have a good one yourself and try to put all the bullshit out of your mind for at least one day.
See you next year ...