When I was a child Christmas was uncomplicated. It started on Christmas Eve when we spent the day making and hanging paper chains and putting up the Christmas tree. On Christmas Day there were presents and turkey and it was wonderful.
As a teenager Christmas began to gain new complexity. There was the weekend in November when I would help my mother make the Christmas pudding and the added bonus of helping to finish up the bottle of Guinness that had gone into it. Then there were presents to buy for my parents and siblings and a pack of Christmas cards for my form at school. Christmas Eve expanded to include helping to make bacon rolls, dividing sausages and peeling parsnips. Christmas Day included the task of laying the table for dinner. All still good fun.
These days, as a grown up, the responsibilities and the time needed have increased enormously, even though I am lucky enough to have someone else to take on the responsibility for the dinner itself.
Christmas cards need writing early enough to send abroad rather than waiting until the end of term. The list of presents I am responsible for thinking up, buying, wrapping and sending has expanded from my immediate family to include their partners and children, and my own, and to the similarly expanded list of my partner’s family too, plus a few special friends. Now six times as many presents as in my teenage years! Some of those presents also need sending abroad, so I spend November torn between planning for Christmas, stressed that I’m running out of time and cursing that it is far too early to be doing any of this.
Really by this point, I’m looking to 25th December when I can relax with no more responsibilities until twelfth night (when the decorations come down).
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love carols, tinsel, roast goose (I’ve moved on from turkey) and huge piles of discarded wrapping paper. Most of all I love all the people that I send cards to and buy presents for and I sincerely hope that they will get joy and pleasure from opening whatever it is I send them (if only I knew what that should be). I just can’t help wishing that I didn’t have to love them all at once with such an immovable deadline.
As far as I know I’m the only person who feels this way. Everyone else is happy preparing for Christmas without feeling stressed out by the expectations it causes. So, please tell me, what’s your secret?
Actually I’d prefer always summer if possible. Surely that would have been a more sensible spell for the White Witch?