Christmas: same time, same place, nothing new in it. And yet, somehow, we never see it coming and get all het up, waking at 4am (oh, all right 9.30am), heart pounding and pulse racing, with all sorts of last-minute considerations such as: ‘Bread sauce. What’s that all about?’
But need it be this way? It need not. Here are my stress-busting tips which, if you followed to the letter, should get you through the next few weeks with a Zenlike calm that will irritate the hell out of everyone around you.
This, by the way, is my gift to you, all these wonderful tips, so please do not expect anything else. I have nothing left to give. Here you are:
- GET your story straight: ‘Mummy, why does Father Christmas always use the same wrapping paper as you?’ Because we have the same excellent taste, darling.’
- IF A shop assistant in Toys R Us or similar tells you a toy is ‘easy to assemble’, that assistant is probably lying.
- AVOID gadgetry shops unless you want to get your head spliced with a remote control helicopter. This year’s top-selling gadget gifts, by the way, are expected to be a USB carpet, night-vision socks, cheese-eating slippers, a hat that writes upside down and a toffee that’s waterproof to a depth of 100 fathoms. I think that the waterproof toffee makes the best gift, as what’s the point of a toffee if you can’t take it down to the sea bed without it leaking.
- WOMEN do not want any of the following gifts; an outboard engine; petrol for the car; a fitness DVD; an electric toothbrush; any book with a title such as 1,000 Recipes For The Freezer; Canesten; anything from the Pyrex range. Just saying.
- KEEP working on your story. ‘Mummy, how come Father Christmas’s reindeer’s can fly?’ Because each morning he gives them a big cup of Father Christmas’s Most Excellent Flying Juice. It is especially for reindeer’s who need to fly.
- GOATS, bees and donkeys are nice thoughts as gifts, but hell to wrap and to keep secret. Hot-air balloons are also a problem.
- PLAN a Christmas gift budget, then don’t look at what you have spent until April, or ever. Eat your bank statements and teach the children that game called Quick, Quick, Lets Hide From The Bailiffs!
- WHY not spare yourself the tiring agony of producing a traditional Christmas dinner and offer something different for a change, such as a salad? This will make small children cry and frighten older people, but hey, you can’t even get through Christmas without upsetting someone anyway. Order your salad from your greengrocer in plenty of time, if it won’t fit in your fridge come Christmas Eve, you can store it overnight in the garage. Also, I should add, it’s worth paying more for a salad that’s had a happy life.
- DO, AT some point, ask yourself this: Is there any point in putting marzipan on the cake when everyone picks it off? If you answer ‘Yes’, please do not read on, as you do not deserve my help at this time.
- INSTEAD of just watching TV, why not play a traditional family game. The rules for Quick, Quick, Lets Hide From The Carol Singers! are as follows: turn off the lights; hide behind sofa; be very quite; pretend to be out.
- SHALLOTS are the work of Satan. It can take a whole morning to peel one. They are not worth it. They are only tight, nasty little onions with mean and un-giving dispositions.
- TRY not to get competitive about cards, eyeing up how many others have received. Buts it’s sensible to send yourself a good number all the same. Plus you can send your self charity cards Christmas cards, thereby proving to yourself that you are a good person, which is nice to know.
- BEFORE attacking the shops feverishly in search of the perfect office party dress, check that you work in an office and you’ve been invited to a party. If you don’t work in an office and haven’t been invited to a party, you don’t have to attack the shops feverishly.
- NEVER throw a party yourself. No matter how many chairs you provide, someone will sit on the edge of a low (glass) table and tip it up.
- GIVING your parents or any older relatives a £5 note and saying ‘buy yourself something nice’ can offend, so up the amount to £10 (or at least £7.50).
- KEEP working on your story. ‘Mummy, is Father Christmas really Daddy?’ ‘Don’t be silly. When has Daddy ever done anything useful round here?’
- BREAD sauce was invented by the Lets Dream Up Things For Women To Do Society, founded in 1792 to dream up things for women to do. Bread sauce is, therefore, wholly unnecessary, as well as really quite horrible.
- REQUEST the Christmas Day shift at work. If you are refused, beg. If you are refused again, turn up for work anyhow. This will make you the Christmas martyr, and everyone knows martyrs don’t have to shop, cook or clean up.
- JUST because you feel you ought to invite your mother-in-law, it doesn’t mean you have to let her in.
- IF AN assistant in PC World or similar says: ‘Yes, it’s easy to set up; it’s just plug-in-and –play,’ they are probably lying. You may kick them.
- GIFT TOKENS may seem like a cop-out, but after driving around the shopping mall for four days trying to park and six days trailing around the shops trying not to cry, you’ll be amazed at how sexy and on-trend they suddenly seem.
- KEEP working on that story, even though your energy may be on the wane. ‘Mummy, how does Father Christmas get into houses without chimneys?’ ‘Through the whole in my wallet where my money used to be, I expect.’
- DON’T decide to write a list of tips for surviving Christmas; it is hard work and exhausting. And hard, exhausting work is not what anyone needs right now.
- IT IS perfectly acceptable to buy any old rubbish just for the sheer relief of crossing them off the list, and what seven-year doesn’t want a new mop anyhow? Also, who is to say your teenage niece didn’t want a golf putting game for the bathroom? Perhaps she was to shy to ask.
- IF YOUR husband’s idea of a gift is to warp the kettle at the last-minute (‘how thoughtful: our kettle!’) it is only fair that you give him the cheese grater in return. Alternatively you could give him the finger, which is cost-effective and extremely satisfying.
YOU do not have to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to Christmas trees and lights. It is perfectly fine to keeps things tatty and half-hearted in the hope you eventually drag them to your level.
‘TIS the season to be jolly, so of course, you are going to feel depressed. Accept it and move on.
WHEN buying wrapping paper, tags, ribbon and crackers, it’s no use howling at the moon: ‘Woolworths, where are you when we need you?’ Though maybe if we all did it together, could it work?
STOP working on that story. ‘Mummy, how does Father Christmas get round all the houses in one night?’ ‘That’s a good question. Though, first let me ask you this. Isn’t there anything on the telly?’
DON’T fret about falling into the ‘Christmas fat trap’, because any falls post Christmas lunch will be cushioned. Chances are you could fall off a tower block and just bounce backup again.
- IF THE Fear Of Not Giving Enough makes you dizzy, take it out on a child with The Fear Of Not Receiving Enough. Hopefully, you’ll eventually just cancel each other out.
- PLEASE, please, please remember, a dog is not just for Christmas, particularly as the dog homes don’t re-open until the New Year.
- EVEN though the young children are annoying and tiring, it’s important to keep the magic of Christmas alive for them until at least December 10. Then no one will blame you for giving up, shouting and pretending 4pm is 7.30pm and sending them to bed. There is a lot to be said for it getting dark earlier.
- BRANDY butter was also invented by the Lets Dream Up Things For Women To Do Society (see bread sauce), as was wrapping bacon around fiddly little sausages.
- IF YOU have done nothing yet about Christmas and are in denial, have a triple brandy with a vodka chaser. You’ll be amazed by how little you care.
- DO NOT buy children educational toys unless you want to see their little faces drop, which you might, if they are annoying.
- LASTLY, if the going gets tough, just repeat this special Nativity prayer: ‘Forgive us our Christmases just as we forgive those who Christmas against us.’ It makes no sense whatsoever, but it also strangely soothing.