Christmas: a time-tunnel to the 1950s?

December 17, 2017

Year upon year I have ended up as the MD of Christmas. Racing round, conditioned like a Pavlov’s dog to “we much catch up before Christmas (why?)”.

Drink party after festive pub lunch, awful sausage meat in every second store sandwich, baristas threatening to put horrible festive syrups in your coffee, heartburn, dark circles, end-of-term projects, school concerts, not finding adaptors for the Christmas lights, synchronising your supermarket order. Getting food in like you live on a remote Hebridean island instead of West London.

It is so very hectic and wouldn't you know it - actually feels a lot like work.

Then comes work itself: Christmas jumpers Christmas wigs chocolates and biscuits everywhere (good), processing the implications of the “all staff” roundup email which you then distill for your team, navigating edgy tired hungover colleagues, agreeing to “pick up” in January, cramming the white paper you promised “by the end of the year” (that’s next week in office language....).

In the midst of this chaos, I was pleased to find a very funny 2015 article by Andrea Catherwood, about how, for women at least, the Christmas season seems to act as a time-tunnel to the 1950s.
I bake nothing but a few reluctant birthday cakes for 11 months, yet come December, I’m up to my elbows in butter cream and painting edible glitter onto biscuits shaped like drunken starfish.
Meanwhile my husband’s sparse Christmas duties are pure ‘hunter-gatherer’ – lugging home the Christmas tree, chopping wood for the fire and buying booze. 
It's funny, but insightful - the holidays don't always mean a holiday, and often we put pressure on ourselves to be a 'high achiever', in the Christmas sense.
Christmas seems to be the festival that feminism forgot. It remains largely untrammelled by the whole gender equality movement, as if it stops work for the holiday period, leaving us stuck in the sexual stereotypes of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
Last week, my husband brought home an invitation to a glitzy Christmas party in Chelsea. My first thought was, “If I could persuade him to go on his own, think how much wrapping I could get done.”

Andrea's advice for maintaining one's grip on reality? "Let’s halt the seasonal escalation. Every year the bar to hosting the perfect Christmas seems to get just that little bit higher. Work out the bits you really don’t like and just don’t do them." I agree. Personally, this Christmas, I’m absolutely cherry picking the best of Christmas past and scheduling like a signal engineer. 

I will:

-send cards to people who are either really on my heart or I’ve seen this year;

-order a present for each family member and stop at that. I will not accidentally “pop” up to Oxford St and end up in Selfridges being sucked into the Jedi mind tricks of their merchandising;

-host a drinks crisps and cashews only party for 20 family members for drinks on Christmas Eve, give everyone lots of drink, hug them, thank them for the year and send them on their way;

-only allow myself one Lindt ball a day but might build to two from the 24th and layer over a slice of panettone;

-get my January schedule sorted now (work-wise) so it is not a brutal shock when we all return.

This way, I will be calm and and present and even have a crack at enjoying myself. How about you? Can you get some space over Christmas?

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