In case you hadn’t noticed it’s almost Christmas. This year we have welcomed in the Christmas spirit a little earlier than usual (although when I used to work in retail, Christmas began in August and in my book, that’s still way too early). Did you start early this year? I’m guessing the effects of Covid meant anything to distract in a kinda “oooh look over here, sparkly lights” sort of way, was welcomed? I know I feel better with a little bit of light in the darkness of winter.
Since having a child, Christmas has become a big thing again, well for our family anyway. The excitement of a small one has helped heaps. I love the magic of it, the sparkly lights and the year on year traditions, that we continue to make as our little family. But that wasn’t always the case for me. Years gone by, have either been ones of complete disappointment, a drunken haze or a “please can this just be over, so I can get back to real life” rush. Can you relate? I guess year on year there have been the great moments, the good times with both friends and family. Many filled with Joy and the obligatory Monopoly game. But so many of them have been filled with dread, as I’ve got dressed in some extremely itchy jumper in order to face the ordeal. To try get through the afternoon with gritted teeth. I’m sure if we linger on the great and the good this coming yuletide will feel like a warm hug. But for many years the gloom and grating relatives used to fill me with dread.
If like me this has been your past experience, I can assure you, finding some much needed routines and rituals will help make the festivities, well, more FESTIVE. So I give you my top 3 from disaster to “nailed it” Christmas moments.
Christmas nightmare 1 - Food, Food glorious food
If, like me, food is your nemesis then the following story may give you the “willies” but hopefully you’ll laugh with me, as I can now. Although for many many months I was haunted by this Christmas food horror.
Once you become a grown up (and for many years I was not considered one, so dodged the Christmas dinner making bullet good and proper). But once the extension on the house was built and the dinning table big enough to sit more than 4. I was catapulted into the spotlight of my own personal Christmas Hell. A few years back, I decided I would cook Christmas lunch, in my brand new kitchen, in my brand new oven, that had yet to be christened by anything more exciting than pizza. My naivety to cooking will shine through here. My first mistake was ordering a turkey crown, somehow expecting just the torso of this giant bird to be somewhat smaller than the whole thing ( one to note, headless and legless turkeys are still fu*king massive) But the Christmas nightmare started the night before Christmas when my Mother in law turned up brandishing a ham (also bloody massive - bigger than my head in fact) And declared “Just a little something else I picked up for you to cook” Also note only 5 adults were coming to dinner and so the nightmare began. As I closed the door to my husband's mother. I started to fret. How the “F” am I gonna cook this thing? I had no pot big enough to cook it in. I began by hacking at it psycho killer styleee with a fairly blunt knife, in order to make it small enough for the various dishes I needed to fit into the oven. I decided to be clever and cook the ham the night before. I went to bed ( and by that I mean I went to bed, no sleep was had) I “awoke” Xmas morning to the smell of bacon throughout the house hmmm yum, except it didn’t feel like that when I peered at the insipid looking chunks of boiled tough looking ham. I had yet to prep the veg and was vaguely aware of how long a full sized turkey would take to cook. And so I began at 9am with a glass of fizz and hope in my eyes. Around 10am The Turkey was in, the ham was cooked and the veg was in its various pots and pans almost ready. I felt in charge. I felt like the queen of my kitchen. And so……. The guests appeared and the husband disappeared, and the Christmas red mist descended. Dinner time was announced, I took out the turkey and attempted to carve it, only to find out that it was raw inside, The Mother in law began to mutter and tut about the ham not being dressed ala Delia Smith. And unbeknownst to me the roast potatoes had turned to crispy mash after being cooked in the top oven because the f ing turkey was taking up every inch of space in the main oven. As you can imagine my sense of humour was starting to fade. As the guests sat muttering if I needed help…. I wanted to tell everyone to fu*k off (In fact I think I did). The final nail in the coffin for some of the rellies was when I told them to dish up themselves canteen style, as I refused to pack the already bursting table with food, I have for many years refused to sit by the brussels to avoid vomiting.
But this tale of catastrophic catering actually has a happy ending. For it was the catalyst for change. Since that dark day I have gotten braver and the following years served up “picky tea” which is like a carpet picnic of oven ready bites and crisps and the like. For you to graze at your leisure. And so, Christmas is much more my style now. One point me.
Top Tip 1
I do urge you not to bow down to Christmas pasts and make Christmas your own. My most favourite memories are Boxing Days filled with a plethora of cold meats and “pot lucks” brought by friends, for all to enjoy. So make Christmas food however you damn well like. Great aunt Nora can do one in fact pour her another Sherry when she’s not looking and all will be fine!
Christmas nightmare 2 - What the “F” are you wearing?
Unfortunately my younger years are filled with memories of tight collars and itchy labels, tights pulled up too high and knees starting to wrinkle. The uncomfyness of “looking” at your “Sunday Best” really was miserable. Fast forward to parenthood and trying to prize a child away from their brand new “insert toy here” in order to dress them up like some prized ham (yes I love that reference hence using it more than once - See here if you’ve never seen one of them! ) and put them in the car for a 3 hour “Christmas Joy ride” to far away grandparents, then I feel your pain. The stress of it all really has taken its toll on my hair and the grey hairs are many. Dressing and leaving the house in a timely fashion with screaming children in tow, quickly can go from from “Driving Home for Christmas to “the Road to Hell” as Chris Rea has sung. (Is there a mashup of those two songs? Because I feel there should be - off to find it on YouTube be right back…………OOOps.Got a bit side tracked there and have yet to find it ...I’m sure it’s out there if you find it place link in the comments)
Now if like me you love to get dressed up and have been planning your Christmas entrance since the beginning of December , then you my friend have nothing to fear. I must admit that getting dressed up pre kids was actually more pleasure than pain. But Since bearing a child I have made the serial faux pas and forgot to plan for the Christmas dinner spread and wore a tighter than tight ensemble. With waist bands that refuse to budge Christmas will quickly become your own personal gastric band hell. If like me the lockdown has meant that exercise routines and diets have been thrown out the window and replaced with comfort food and snacking then this next tip will be a godsend. So plan ahead and dress like a true Christmas ninja.
Top Tip 2
I recommend a shapeless dress in order to hide the mid afternoon bloat. Dress the children how they want...in fact onesies and “Christmas pyjamas” are now a staple in this house all thrown together with sparkly fingernails and enough concealer to hide the bags from “pretending to be Santa” the night before. Adorn with tinsel and you will rock Xmas like a pro.
Christmas nightmare 3 - Drink and be not that merry!
Now if you have read my previous blogs you will know that I enjoy a drink or 2 and with those past disasters behind me, I am well on my way to keeping myself in check when it comes to the alcohol. So this is not a long fancy tale of how many Christmases have been ruined by me drinking way too much. Either at the office Christmas party (thank heavens we’re sidestepping that one this year) Or the night before, when Christmas Eve never actually ends. Or on the big day, when I have tried to hide my nervousness and over done the champagne. Me, trying to avoid what I don’t want to do for Christmas, has always entailed too much Christmas spirit! And...... it's with this knowledge that I have done my best to work on myself over the last few years. In trying to be everything that I am not, it has meant topping up my “dutch” courage and ending up more often than not, in a real hangover from hell. So I am leaving you with this top tip.
Top Tip 3
If the alcohol seems to be marring your experience of Christmas more than enhancing it. And the idea of being completely sober fills you with dread I get ya ...I’ve been there. But this is the time to really not worry about it too much. Give yourself a break and relax, you’ll find that the alcohol won’t flow as readily if you're relaxed already and you’ll feel way more in control if you just breathe. Without everyone breathing down your neck the idea of having a glass of water every now and then won’t end up with you swearing at everyone and ignoring their advice (yep I’ve been there too). So go in with a deep breath and remember that hiding in a cupboard is acceptable, if it means you’ll feel calmer (yep been there too - I've also gone outside in the cold rain to cool down too, another great top tip if you're in those menopause years!). Remember this Christmas, that the best gift you can give yourself is one of talking kind to yourself, a sprinkle of self compassion and a huge congratulatory hug. You’ve got this!!!