Liz Kearney: 'Putting the merry into Christmas'
It all started innocently enough when he said he would bring a tree home.
Except it wasn't just any tree - a towering, Christmas equivalent of a giant redwood came trundling in the front door of our very average-sized home. It had to be hacked vigorously back at both ends before finally being wedged under the ceiling.
Frankly, it would have been more at home at the top of O'Connell Street. But right up until the point that my husband stood proudly in front of this indoor forest, surrounded by chairs and lamps which had been knocked over in the process, he had been doing a very good job of hiding the fact that he was actually something of a Christmas Griswald.
Before having kids, we'd not bothered much with Christmas. I'd grown up in a house where the tree was so minimalist it was routinely perched up on top of the hall table, just to ensure you didn't miss it altogether. The rest of the decorations were equally low-key: an antique crib, a neatly arranged display of greeting cards, a few sprigs of holly. Festive, but not in-your-face. Naïvely, I'd assumed that my husband would also favour restrained seasonal decorating.
Boy, was I wrong. The oversized Christmas tree was only the start of it. The following year, a string of garish multicoloured lights appeared at the front of the house. The fact that they were ever-so-slightly lopsided only added to the overall 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' vibe.
These were rapidly followed by a new set of bright white illuminations in the back garden, this bunch so dazzling it was hard to look at them without your retinas spontaneously detaching.
This week I arrived home to find the final nail in the coffin of my restrained family Christmas: there is now a pair of life-sized wooden reindeer on the lawn. One is nibbling the grass indifferently, the other is proudly pointing his giant antlers - festooned in twinkly lights, of course - skywards.
Our transformation from 'people who don't really do Christmas' to 'people who are in danger of blowing up the national grid' is now complete. And it's hard to know who's more excited about all this, the children or my husband, who seems to be just one step away from spending the rest of the month wearing a Santa outfit.
It's all very far removed from the elegant Scandi-chic Christmas I find myself longing for in quieter moments.
But that's the thing about family traditions - you have to pick a few of your own, pick a few of his, put them in the melting pot and come up with some new ones, which your own kids will presumably ridicule in years to come. So in the spirit of the season, I'm saying nothing, but I wish peace, love, harmony and life-size reindeer to all.
Bah humbug, they're right you know
Christmas spirit must be thin on the ground at UCC, where they are busy pouring cold water all over our festive favourites by pointing out the obvious environmental drawbacks to our season of excess.
The university's academics this week suggested 10 ways to make your Christmas more sustainable, and the advice made for sobering reading.
Our beloved turkey dinner is contributing to poor air quality because rearing the birds releases the harmful gas ammonia. Overdoing it with the fancy wrapping paper is a no-no, for obvious reasons, and open festive fires of peat, coal or wood are "very naughty indeed", according to the experts. There wasn't any advice pertaining to illuminated reindeer, but I'd hazard a guess that they are similarly unsustainable.
It all sounds a bit Grinch-like, but of course they're right. We all collectively lose the run of ourselves this month, and it is no harm to be reminded that all of this excess is not without consequence.