I am on the record as being, if not a convicted seasonal denier, at least insufficiently Christmassy. Last year I interviewed Noel Gallagher for the Christmas cover of a magazine and we bonded over our mutual dread of what our American friends call, dispiritingly, holidays.
‘Christmas Day’s the longest day, longer than D-Day — and more stressful,’ he moaned. ‘You’re sitting there exhausted, thinking, “And it’s only 11 o’clock”.’
For the avoidance of doubt, I love Christmas trees, holly, mistletoe, church services, chestnut stuffing and mince pies. I do not love schlepping round the shops, all playing Slade on a loop, in the sleet buying things people don’t want, and the sense that if I don’t tingle with excitement at it all, I am failing in my Christian duty as a mother and patriot.
I resent the pressure, the entire gut- and wallet-busting commercial splurge. I tolerate it best as a guest, preferably of one of my sainted sisters-in-law, where I can be hailed as a saviour of all mankind for performing some limited but essential service on the day, like making the bread sauce or playing Scrabble with a maiden aunt.
Frankly, far from there being a ‘mutiny of mums’ if lockdown was extended to embrace Christmas (as one of the red-tops predicted), the tinselly silver lining of 2020 was going to be that the Great British Christmas was off. Computer — in the shape of the shroud- and graph-waving nerds of Sage and Whitehall — had said no. Because of Covid.
For once, a government restriction almost made sense to me after a year of almost vindictive illogicality (those under house arrest in isolation in care homes and the ban on tennis were only two of the things that broke me). If we couldn’t have golf, restaurants, sex, going into other people’s houses, holidays, dinner parties — any sort of fun and pleasure at all because it wasn’t ‘safe’ — there was no way, surely, that multi–generational clan gatherings in steamy kitchens at the dead of winter were a good idea.
For once, then, I could contemplate watching three middle-aged blokes in suits at a podium telling me what to do – and whom to do it with — without wanting to break things. Or so I thought.
As the November lockdown limped on, I began almost to look forward with childish glee to the Great Mums’ Christmas Off. For one year, we could swerve the extravaganza of excess and wrapping paper and personalised Quality Street toffee tins, not to mention the epic shopping and cooking and clearing-up marathon that falls to her indoors.
Even Kirstie Allsopp, the official Queen of Christmas, who has two — two — series on making your own Christmas decorations on Channel 4 as I write, had decreed that this year we were permitted to lie in bed in our pyjamas and order pizza. ‘I think there will be people who think, great, we don’t have to meet up as a family… so no pressure,’ she allowed. Hallelujah!
But then, this week, lo, there came tidings of great dismay — I mean joy, as Christmas was… SAVED (MailOnline capitals and headline). It was all back on again, big time. Many households, over many days, could mingle and make merry. A loud groan did go out across the land.
On the day Christmas was ‘saved’, like Port Stanley, by the Tory government, I went for a walk with the journalist and mother of three young children, Marina Hyde. ‘Since around March I’ve done the heavy lifting, the cooking, the home-schooling, the childcare has fallen on me like it has on most women and now my Christmas present is to do industrial catering for five days,’ she said (one child had just been sent home to self-isolate, which didn’t help the mood). ‘Every-one says “it’s just a large chicken”, so this year, that’s what I’m doing. A large chicken.’ Good luck with that, Marina.
Another added bonus this year is, of course, Covid-secure supermarket shopping. Queuing in the rain outside. Indeed, even in a good year, it’s hard getting all the festive fayre and provisions in. The angry headlines about home delivery come earlier every year: ‘There are still 11 weeks until Christmas but concerned shoppers voiced their fears yesterday over Ocado delivery slots already being snapped up,’ the Mail on Sunday warned on 11 October.
I put out a poll on Twitter asking my followers what they were up for this Yule. The choice was between Pizza in Pyjamas or Turkey Dinner for 20 (I sensitively didn’t add ‘followed by burying granny’ like some ghastly doomster from Sage). The first choice won by miles, which proves my point.
All we wanted was a very merry one of pizza in pyjamas in front of the telly. The people have spoken! But no. We got the Mary Berry Christmas instead. Bah humbug!
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