So, Christmas (or Noël as they call it over here …or The Holidays (ffs) as they say Stateside or Xmas for people too honest-to-goodness lazy or true-blue atheist to write the word Christ) is nearly upon us. Like everyone else we have been frantically searching for more plastic crap to buy the children and weigh up when to put the christmas tree up (needle drop is a serious concern…) and generally preparing to put my mental and emotional gearstick into ‘panic mode.’ (think I’m mixing metaphors here, like I care).
All this effort though, I think, does count for something. When you have children, Christmas does take on a new meaning. I remember Christmas when I was a kid and I still remember the excitement of Christmas Eve, writing letters to Santa Claus, midnight mass and all the glorious food. But having kids has also taught me that we all live through our children a bit – I look at the decorations in towns and villages and think: that’s not for the grown ups, is it? I mean, I like them an’ all, but my children love them. Every time they see them they say ahhh, Whereas I think: I wonder if when one of the bulbs goes the whole circuit goes kaput?
So, I think we go through stages of Chrimbo-dom:
- The Whatever Phase I As a baby, you don’t give a monkey’s nuts about having a fern tree in your house covered with easily breakable shiny objects that shatter into razor-sharp shards at the merest touch. As a parent, you obviously try your best to instil the spirit of consumerism as early as possible, but they are still a bit meh about the whole thing.
- The Pavlov Phase Toddlers have just grasped that when people start sticking lights on everything and snow appears in all the episodes of their favourite TV shows then they are gonna get toys wrapped in paper. They only understand this on the actual day and the tree is still a thing to be stripped of baubles – but they’re starting the get it.
- The Dickensian Phase I estimate – using the patented formula of pulling a figure out of my arse – that children between the ages of 4 and 14 basically love Christmas. They 95% believe the Santa Claus myth (just drunken adults and spiteful other children who try and give the game away…), they get excited about Christmas more than the average high street retailer and get depressed when you take down the tree and decorations. They watch Christmas movies willingly, they listen to (and sing!) Christmas songs (that are by any measure, shite) and eat Christmas fayre (I fucking hate that word) with enthusiasm – though, in keeping with tradition, draw the line at Brussels Sprouts…which is fair enough, I say.
- The Whatever Phase II Whilst within a whirlwind of spiking hormones, maudlin self-doubt and cronic skin and body odour issues teenagers can be forgiven for putting Christmas on the back burner. After a certain age christmas, instead, becomes something to endure and any nostalgic feelings of what-it-used-to-be are quickly swept under the bulging rug called: uncool. I remember being a reet skulking bastard of a teenager, pumping out a dirge of gothic insecurity anthems from under my bedroom door on my Bush stereo, growing inappropriate amounts of barnet and I even went so far as to become vegetarian. Why? Who knows, lost in the sands of time. I probably just wanted to piss off my parents…or impress a girl. But I was from an irish household and the endless platters of meat sandwiches, Saturday and Sunday roasts; and sausages-as-snacks ground me down…plus, having pizza for your Chrimbo dinner is just depressing. Pizza! For Christmas! Even Italians, I’m sure, draw the line there.
- The Rein-sneer Phase It is a 120% factorama that everyone goes through this phase. Everyone. ‘Christmas is sooo commercial…I soooo hate the forced bonhomie…I sooooo hate all the stodgy food…it’s soooo just an excuse to get drunk and engage in conspicuous consumption…’ Blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I know, being down about christmas is just so Hoxton but, you what? Lighten the fuck up. Better yet, have some children then suddenly – bam! – you are down Hamleys faster than Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer and drinking eggnog in your season jumper with enough fairy lights illuminating your home that you could bodge together enough to fashion a make-do runway for jet fighters if needed. It passes.
- The Ironic Phase Using the Grande Tente du Fromage that is irony you can embrace every cheap, nasty and tacky aspect of Christmas without let or hindrance as long as you keep reminding everyone that your utter immersion into all things Christmas is ironic. So you nudge and wink yourself through christmas without realising that you’re finalising your future Christmas traditions…
- The Self-Destruct Phase This is the stage I am at. My kids love Christmas, everything about it, and my biggest concern is that they’re happy. Unfortunately, trying to ensure that you achieve the impossible dream (a mixture of It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and Big) entails stress, worry, organisation and expense. Trying to find the perfect tree, cook the perfect Christmas dinner, find the perfect present and have the perfect day is impossible and all it does is make us lousy parents because we get so frigging stressed out by this impossibly high bar that we take it out on the poor little mites we’re trying to build this mythological construct for.
I was going to try and make 12 but couldn’t hit that…but I’m okay with that.
That’s the thing about Christmas is learning to be okay with the Christmas you have rather than trying to reach for something that is always going to elude your grasp. But we should still try, though, because I have always thought that just trying to buy a great present for someone – no matter the capitalist agenda associated with purchasing that present – shows that you love someone enough to try.
Where is MrShev on this list? I am at seven…and three. I think Christmas is great. I love all the traditions that each family has, I like buying presents for people whom I care about, I like mince pies, I like having a pine tree in my house, I love the crappy Christmas specials and I could watch It’s A Wonderful Life every Christmas and not get bored.
Do I overbuy for the kids? A bit. But we also buy a lot of second hand and stocking fillers – but the reaction to something as small as a bouncing ball from one of my children makes it all worth it…and seeing their expressions when they have discovered that the carrots and mince pies we left for Santa have been eaten is priceless. These are cliches, but seeing the cliches writ large is what makes it all worthwhile, I guess…