So, this is Christmas…

Credits to my daughter, Erin, for the photos

Here it is; my annual Christmas blog post! I’m publishing this on Christmas Eve because, let’s face it, tomorrow both you and I are going to be way too busy stuffing our faces with Cadbury’s ‘Heroes’ (probably not ‘Celebrations’ as I heard on the grapevine that they took out the nice ‘Maltesers’ chocs) to faff around with posting and reading blogs.

Last Christmas, I’m not ashamed to admit, I wasn’t in a very good place. No, I’m not talking about Swindon; I’m talking about emotionally (that is my very favourite joke, so again, apologies to Swindon). This year, well…I’d say I’m okay. But I must confess that I’ve not particularly enjoyed the Christmas build-up. I sound like a real Scrooge when I say that. I know my husband thinks I am. All I’ve had to do is attend a few school carol concerts, Christmas shows, rehearsals etc. All enjoyable once you’re there and in the moment, but the expectations on a parent, every night of the live-long week for a fortnight or more, it’s just a little relentless. I must say I was exceptionally relieved when Friday (just gone) bedtime rolled around.

I must count myself lucky; I have all of Christmas week off – hoorah (let the congaing commence)! But actually, I won’t be dancing; I will finally be letting my guard down. I am going to try to spend my entire week lying horizontally on some sofa somewhere (be it at my house or at somebody else’s) as much as womanly possible. But sitting here on Christmas Eve, I just want to talk about the stress we put ourselves through – simply so that the Christmas period can be as relaxed and as horizontal as possible.


I’ve said this before, but one of my least favourite tasks is writing Christmas cards. It’s only then that you wish you’d been more of a hermit and not made any friends. I’m joking, of course, but although a necessary tradition that should never be scrapped (without Christmas cards, you’d lose contact with many people entirely), writing Christmas cards makes me want to kill myself. I did ALL of our family cards this year. I’m not sure how it happened, but one night, my husband said he would make the dinner if I wrote all the cards. And I agreed. Because I didn’t want to make dinner. But it really was the worst deal I ever made; Grannies, Great Aunts, friends, friends of friends, friends of dog’s friends – I wrote them all (horrible glittery things that they were. Can you die of glitter consumption? Because I have inhaled/consumed an unhealthy amount. Even to the people I knew full-well wouldn’t send cards or only send e-cards; I sent real cards to those people too. The feeling of smugness was my reward. Throwing a huge stack of cards into a post box on the last second-class posting day was exhilarating.


Sadly, a couple of people were missed (eek)! An unlucky few friend’s addresses haven’t made it across from the archaic ‘address book of doom’ to my iPhone contacts (the address book is in an IKEA bookcase that I currently can’t reach because of a stack of records blocking the way [your fault, husband]). Then there are those people who have thoughtlessly moved house this year. I mean, they may have passed on their new address to my husband or myself in some way or another, but then again, maybe they didn’t. But either way, their lack of Christmas card can’t be my fault; they shouldn’t have moved house. I was still managing to ride the ‘smug train’ in spite of these errors. At least I was until I arrived home from the post office and saw a golden envelope on my mat with that familiar writing… No, it wasn’t from Willy Wonka; I have a very good British friend in America who always manages to catch the last foreign post to ensure I get a Christmas card. And nine times out of ten, I will have missed the last U.S. post (14th of December, folks – I don’t think I’d even bought Christmas cards by then). And what’s worse, her cards are always beautifully printed with a picture of her family on the front – with a lovely, thoughtful letter inside about their family news over the past year. Perhaps my friend is better off without my paltry effort (i.e. a crappy, glittery, asthma-inducing card from Sainsbury’s with my illegible scrawl all over it). Anyway, to my Anglo-American friend, those of you who are in the inaccessible address book of doom, those of you who have moved and neglected to tell me, and those I just plain forgot – I’m sorry. But you know you have my sincere thoughts and best wishes this Christmas – with or without a card.

On the plus side, I have managed to get out of wrapping the lion’s share of presents this Christmas (my other least favourite task). That job was delegated to my seventeen-year-old (who even uses string to jazz up her presents, so she does a better job than I ever would have). My eleven-year-old has also been roped-in. She uses a little too much paper for my liking, and sometimes her presents are a tad on the ‘baggy’ side, but she’s getting better – and it still beats me doing the wrapping.


Having a weekend falling just before Christmas at first seemed like a good thing, but in actuality, it just means everybody is hitting the shops to do their last-minute panic-buying at the same time. I think I’m pretty much up-together on the present front – apart from my husband. What do you buy the man who buys things he wants the moment he thinks of them, and only really likes gifts he thought of himself? Hmm, answers on a postcard please. But by then it will be too late (it’s not too late, I got him a couple of gifts he won’t really like yesterday).

This blog is sounding a little too much like a Christmas rant – but it isn’t supposed to be. I’ve never liked the lead-up to Christmas, but Christmas itself is usually pretty great. And I’m just glad the run-in is nearly over. I’ll be spending Christmas day at my mother-in-law’s like I have for the past umpteen years. And no mother-in-law jokes are required. She’s the best, kindest, and most self-effacing MIL I could ask for. My kids are very lucky to have a Grandma like that. And now, I can’t imagine spending Christmas Day anywhere else. Apart from Santa, I don’t think anybody works harder than her to make Christmas perfect (although her efficiency does bring out my lazy streak, and I can usually be found lying horizontally on her sofa).

Erin and the historically inaccurate cake

On Boxing Day, we have our own family Christmas Day – just the four of us – with yet another roast dinner (although probably a little less fancy than the day before). All the house presents are opened (I think it’s good to stagger children’s presents over two days, to ensure that present-opening doesn’t just become a chore). Then, hopefully, we might head out for our traditional Boxing Day walk in the country, which sometimes gets pushed over onto the 27th if we’re feeling particularly apathetic – which isn’t unknown for us. Board games will most certainly be on the menu, but usually carefully-vetted ones (by me) – there’s nothing worse than an overly complicated board game. I hate being giving instructions at the best of times – even less so at Christmas.

Anyway, that’s what we’ll be doing. I hope your day pans out in the traditional way that has become commonplace for you and your family. And if Christmas isn’t a jolly time in your life (we must never forget that it really isn’t for everybody) I hope you can enjoy the time off, at least, if you have any…

So, blog friends, it only remains for me to wish you the very best of Christmases. If your day cannot be merry and bright, may it be peaceful and pass without stressful or painful events. That said, I’m off to book my place on the sofa – because logistically, only so many people can be horizontal at one time. Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

16 thoughts on “So, this is Christmas…

  1. In the last several years I’ve gone into my “simplify” mode, which tends to consist of online shopping rather than brick and mortar stores, wrapping paper sans fancy bows, intent on doing Christmas cards, but no longer actually following through, and easily prepared meals. I just want to laugh with my friends and family. That’s it. (I DO agree that horizontal can be swell.)

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  2. Hmm, interesting read. “…Interesting?” I know, I know. “What do you mean, “INTERESTING?” you might be blurting indignantly to yourself right now. I’ve always had the impression some people think “interesting” is a word people use to describe things that dip somewhere just south of the fifty percentile mark on the “This-is-really-worth-my-time” scale. But trust me, Adele, despite all possible appearances, I do think carefully about what I say to people (usually) and qualify my remarks by seeking out the most apropos vocabulary. And as far as the word “interesting” is concerned, I’m like Spock from Star Trek (my deepest sympathy for those who have no idea who I’m talking about) – “interesting” to me is roughly equivalent to me saying something is fascinating or thought-provoking. Trust me, it’s high praise, just so you know.

    Anyway, I really do find this post “interesting!” Not to compare myself unduly to you in any untoward way, but ever since we met and really started to engage in conversation, I’ve noticed that we share a lot of similar thought patterns, although not always necessarily the reasons behind them.

    One example is our general feeling toward certain aspects or even the institution of Christmas as a commercial holiday (or at least what I regard as the superfluous and typically superficial baggage that goes with it). Don’t get me wrong. I love the true meaning/spirit of Christmas as it means to me. I think you’re fairly aware of my Christian faith. So given that, it might not come as any surprise that I favor the spiritual aspect of Christmas over the mad rush and overly political correctness of the commercial side. I burned out from that years ago and have grown quite weary of hanging up Christmas lights, throwing up decorations that are even more laborious to take down after the New Year begins, and buzzing about the kitchen chipping in with holiday meal preparations that feel more like I’m on military KP duty.

    Now, to echo your own sentiment, I don’t mean to seem like a scrooge. But more and more, as I’ve drifted farther and farther down the river of adulthood, getting involved in holiday events (not just Christmas – there’s Thanksgiving too) has felt far too much like a chore or duty – like serving in jury duty or filing taxes. Instead of staggering deliriously through department store aisles with heavy bags under my arms, or sweating over which faulty bulb is causing the middle section of lights I just hung up around the eaves to suddenly go dark, I’d rather go to church, read a good book (like say, any of your three International Relations novels – wink, wink), go to the show (I’d just as happily watch one at home if that didn’t invariably leave me vulnerable to an endless barrage of calls by family to run back and forth to the store to buy something they keep forgetting to ask me to get when I was there two hours earlier), or – one of my personal favorites which I know you can relate to – just lie down on the bed in perfect solitude and silence until the nerve-scorching revelries of Commercial Christmas have ebbed to a mild throb in my skull.

    Anyhoo, all this said, you have my respect and admiration for apparently handling it far better than I think I’ve been doing over the past decade or so. Kudos to you! In fact, next year, I think I’ll just send all my Christmas stuff (including cards) to you and have you wrap and mail them out for me. How does that sound, Adele? Interesting….?


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      1. So…that’s a “HECK YEAH! GO FOR IT, DUDE!” I take it then? Awesome! This means I can just chill for the entire month of December….

        Ha ha. Yes, yes, you know I’m kidding. Merely yielding to my occasionally wry and probably jaw-slacking sense of humor only the most highly perceptive of people can comprehend (so I know you appreciate it).

        But anyway, on a more musing note, I just had another thought. I’m not a parent but hold great respect for – if not stark terror of – those who are. Why? Because the things that parenting makes (maybe “inspires” is more suitable) you do and compels you to morph into is incredible. You people (I just love thinking of parents as an alien species) are a different breed of kick-ass – ready at any moment to perform triage in your own life needs or even somebody else’s for the sole benefit of your kids happiness – like when one of your peers (certainly not you) tells them, “YES! Yes, you spend the weekend with that strange old guy with the long beard and dark sunglasses who apparently thinks it’s okay to run through the park grinning and pumping his first toward the sky while shouting ‘you’ll never stick that probe up my tush again!’ Oh, and don’t forget to leave your mobile at home – you won’t need that. I’m sure you’ll have oodles of fun!”

        Okay….I might have gone a wee bit overboard with that scenario. Again, remember? Twisted sense of humor…?

        Anyway, getting back on track, I do think you parenting or even simply married folk are quite impressive in the burdens you’ll willingly bare for each other. Remarkable. It’s like your whole mindset changes are you do things with and for each other you would probably never do if you were single and had no kids. And trust me, by the way, this is not a backhanded compliment. In my view, the difference between being married with kids and the single life is akin to living as a Jedi or a Sith, respectively.

        Anyone who knows Star Wars lore appreciates the fact that Jedi are characteristically selfless and more altruistic, while Sith are generally more self-absorbed and whimsical. I’ll humble myself and admit I’m definitely more self-absorbed (by habit if not by intent) than I would be if I were hitched and had a couple of little Shaws running around – no doubt with scissors in hand.

        Your self-emoted pangs of conscience that you elucidated (gotta love these big words) in this post over missing the last mailing date to your friend is what I’d call a prime example of your thoughtfulness. I myself am more inclined to send somebody a happy text and then go back to watching Black Mirror on Netflix.

        Anyhoo-hoo-hoo, this is all I’ve got for now. Even though I don’t have a family of my own (boo-hoo), I’ve still got a mom, aunt, brother, three nephews, and a godfather to invest my energy in. That’s gotta be worth something, I figure, eh?

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