When did Christmas start becoming social and mental torture? When did it stop being a time of joy and happiness and start being a cross between a military logistics exercise and socio-psychological Russian Roulette?
I am usually a big fan of Christmas - I love the holiday, the songs, the traditions, the food and the general schmaltzy cheesiness of it all. Give me a dark night, Once In Royal Davids City, driving around judging the silly house sized Christmas lights, a whacking great plate if Lieberkucken and The Vicar of Dibley and I am happy. Usually.
This year seems to have been different. This year my patience seems to have worn threadbare with a number of aspects of the entire thing.
1. Tradition! (Quick Topol impersonation for those that care...) - Christmas is full of 'traditions' and sometimes we have to cull these traditions so that we can stay sane. One such tradition is that we 'always' go to the Christingle Service on Christmas Eve. 'Always' meaning for the last eight years. When we first started to go it was quite fun but in recent years it has become a turgid waste of time. I know some of you will be reading this and saying 'but Neil, it was always a turgid waste of time' but as part of a pre-Christmas ritual and a great way to tire out the kids! This year we bowed out of Christingle because I simply couldn't face it anymore and boy, did it cause a stink. Adults asserting control over their own lives? Surely not...
2. Venue! - Similarly we rotate 'Christmas' between my house, my parents house and my mother-in-laws house. Which means that only one year in three do I have control over how the game runs. Now, we have come to this situation because in the first year that Christine and I were together we tried to 'do' Christmas at both parents houses and ended up in some Vicar of Dibley style double Christmas Dinner style nightmare. Man can only eat so much turkey! I think after my Man died last year, my Dad will be happy just to tag along rather than host it himself so next year is mine, ALL MINE! Which means no more luke warm, over cooked vegetables, no more piss poor gravy, no more 'no salt, no fat, no seasoning' cooking, no more horrendous trifle and no more 'stuffing' that was simply the most disgusting slurry that I have ever tasted. Oh and this year we were graced by my brother-in-law and his wife on Christmas Day for the first time ever instead of the usual Boxing Day follow-up dinner (oh yes, two in a row usually - unremitting joy). Currently my sister-in-law has said under 10 sentences to me in 12 years. Do the maths everyone - yes, there have been at least two years she hasn't said hello or goodbye to me! Well, sadly, this year they arrived under a cloud as their recently acquired £600 pedigree kitten-cat-thing was very ill and at the vets and the poor thing died just as they sat down to dinner. Tears, sobbing and a tidal wave of platitudes ensued as they made a swift exit, stage left. Honestly, if it was on Only Fools and Horses you couldn't have written it.
3. Presents Part One - The Children - OK folks, lets keep up here. Lara is 10. She is growing up very fast. VERY fast. Favourite presents this year? CD player, Hoosiers album, Take That album, DS games, flying dragonfly RC thingy. :Least favourite present? Sylvanian Families dolls, Bratz dolls, craft things (Lara is the Anti-Art one) and other tat from Poundstretcher. Emma is 7 and guess what? She's growing up very fast as well but even she, as the 'arty one' cannot handle a literal fuck-ton of 'craft' tat. When will people learn that QUALITY is more important than QUANTITY. That the size of the present bag is SIMPLY NOT COMPARABLE to the way that the present will be received. And of course, most importantly that the presents that were bought last year are NOT the presents that need to be bought AGAIN this year! GAH!!!
4. Presents Part Two - Me - This may seem really quite selfish but I really REALLY get fucked off by the way people buy me presents. Its like they have some sort of memory loss thing going on. Lets see - I got 12 pairs of socks (cool), 3 t-shirts (which might fit), two litres of vodka (hurrah - just as I enter one of my tee-total periods) and of course, a ton of sweets. Oh and a novelty clock, a desk puzzle and some other chaff. (Note, sorry, that these were from other people - the stuff I got from Christine and the kids was exactly what I wanted). Now I have stopped trying to exhibit faux excitement as I receive presents that are quite blatantly presents bought for a 36 year old man rather than for me so this year FINALLY someone said it. I nearly exploded and really had to bite my lip. 'Well, you are so difficult to buy for...'
Has Forbidden Planet closed down since you went last year and got a gift voucher? Similarly HMV/Waterstones? Have these places being wiped off the map? Because I'm SURE I was standing in them not three days ago! Does my wife not have an intimate knowledge of my wants and needs and are you not in possession of a mouth and ears?! Have I not got enough acknowledged hobbies that you could dip into? I mean between the comics, movies, wrestling, roleplaying, history and cooking there's simply NOTHING that you could dip into there is there? Oh no. Hang on, you could just give me MONEY, like I have always asked for so I can feed my fund to go to GenCon. Oh no, money is a bad present because ITS BETTER TO WASTE MONEY ON SHITE I DON'T WANT THAN GIVE ME SOMETHING I DO WANT!! FFS!!!!!
Please don't pretend that you have put huge amounts of thought into a present for me when it is simply plain to anyone that you haven't thought one bit about me as a person and you have simply bought the Standard Man Package presents for someone my age. Some people might think that I sound ungrateful but I would retort that what do I have to be grateful about? One of the presents I got this year was a raffle prize - the ticket was still on the bottle. *shakes head*
5. Psychological Pressure - Finally I am sick of the pressure that is put on people at Christmas to do everything regardless of their circumstances. It starts with the presents and bloody Christmas Cards (a Christmas tradition that we have all but jettisoned). Then its the tree and the decorations (again, reduced to minimal numbers in our house). The food, the worry over whether something has been forgotten, the insane shopping, more worrying, the wrapping of the gifts (once again, something I have disposed of, on environment grounds .... honest!), the worrying and yes, the worrying. Why is everyone so bloody worried all of the time about Christmas. Hello? Time of joy? Peace on Earth (ha!), Goodwill to all Men? Not a time to be fretting about whether a certain word in a card is too informal or whether the gift that you have pondered over for weeks is something the person REALLY wants (just ask ffs!). The event causes a maelstrom of chaos that I can simply do without. Fuck it.
And this, dear reader, all pales into insignificance when compared to the mother of all anti-climaxes. New Year cometh. I might well get an early night.
BAH HUMBUG! I want my Christmas back!