It’s the most wonderful time of the year …yeah right. Christmas brings out extreme character traits we keep submerged for the rest of the year. The additional stress caused by crowded shops, traffic and family pressure among other things is enough to frustrate even the happiest elf. Normally polite individuals become foul-mouthed demons competing for the last shopping trolley and parking spaces near mall entrances. Cuss outs in traffic queues are common and bank meltdowns become de rigeur (had one myself last week; they called security). Credit card machines breakdown under the additional strain and ATMs empty faster than Usain Bolt in the 100m.
It is also the time of the year when people who don’t usually drive hit the road, much to the annoyance of other drivers. Nothing worse than being stuck behind granny or granddad while they try to remember which turning is the correct one for Cousin Jean’s house.
I’m beginning to view Christmas as a multi-disciplinary event – a kind of Seasonal X-Games. We compete in a series of events – the office party, Christmas Day with family and friends, shopping, parties – and emerge either victorious or defeated at the end. Christmas Day is the showcase event and naturally the most challenging; a Seasonal Steeplechase with several hurdles and water pits to overcome. For example:
- Accepting every party/lime invitation lest you offend someone
- Buying the perfect Christmas present for everybody on your list without ending up in chronic debt
- Eating every food item put in front of you with gusto as if your life depended on it
- Drinking to excess without telling certain family members what you really think of them
- Spending several hours in a confined space with your nearest and dearest without killing them
Consider your skill sets and choose your events wisely. Most of my neighbours take part in the Decoration Decathlon. They try to outdo each other with garish light displays while taste takes a back seat. For the record, my outdoor lights are pathetic; having mostly been destroyed by my cocker spaniel. I choose to avoid this event in favour of the Christmas Cooking and Seasonal Shopping. At least I have a shot at those.
The Seasonal Shopping event is particularly competitive as shoppers literally do battle for the last tin of cranberry jelly and this year’s must have toy. Forget about courtesy. I saw the Coach handbag first and I WILL have it. Seasoned competitors know this is a team event. Plant someone in the checkout queue while you race madly around the store grabbing items on your list. It helps to have a third team member – the scout – who hunts for tricky items and alerts the team captain. “Christmas crackers on aisle 2 by the wrapping paper!” God bless smart phones.
As with any event, there are different classes of competitor. Seasoned competitors line up against Lazy Lookers (self explanatory) who get in the way and Harassed Harrys who just want to buy something – anything – and go home. Lazy Lookers are never alone. They always bring the whole family to gawp, point and generally clog up the shops. Then there are the Smug Shoppers (some of these are also SMOGs so they have a double reason to feel superior). Smug Shoppers complete all their Christmas shopping by the end of September and return to the shops solely to make friends and relatives they bump into feel inferior.
At this time of the year parents are under extreme pressure from offspring wanting iPads, iPods, and iPhones. Well here’s the situation – iPoor. As I explained to my kids, times are hard and no such luxuries would be forthcoming this year.
Coming down to the last few shopping hours before Christmas Day, Desperate Dans join the Seasonal Shopping Event. Visit any shopping mall on Christmas Eve. Who are the shops crowded with? Wild-eyed men willing to pay extravagant amounts for spa gift certificates, chocolates, lingerie, fake fur lined carpet slippers in any size – virtually any present that will ensure they don’t end up in the dog house on Christmas Day.
By far my favourite event is the Christmas Cooking. This is a serious business. It can be a daunting task preparing festive meals for one’s entire family and friends, particularly when you live in a country where finding items like brussel sprouts and fresh cranberries is akin to searching for Sasquatch.
I am a competent cook and start my training in early October, focusing on upper body strength. One needs strong arms to lift the turkey out of the oven and quick reflexes to snatch a just-baked mince pie away from ever present pilferers. I find bicep wine curls to be most effective. Pour wine in glass, neck it down, repeat. Not only does the added hydration put me in a good mood, it enables me to spend hours in the kitchen churning out culinary masterpieces. Except for last week when a few bicep curls too many might have contributed to me almost pouring whiskey in the brandy butter.
One of the primary challenges for me during the Seasonal X Games is overcoming the Obstacle Course. The obstacles are many and varied – the traffic, the crowds, the annoying relatives, and the propensity for every appliance in the house to break down. For some reason, come December every year all my appliances successively give up the ghost. This year it was the dishwasher quickly followed by the air-conditioning units and two showers. Feeling left out, the gearbox in my car packed up. After all, I wouldn’t be doing much driving in December, right?
It’s a conspiracy perpetrated by appliance stores and tradesmen. They know full well that faced with the prospect of no fridge/stove/washing machine for Christmas we will gladly sacrifice a firstborn and remortgage the house to ensure the much-needed appliance is repaired/purchased by Christmas Eve.
We don’t get medals for successfully completing the Seasonal X Games so why compete at all? Because somewhere at the back of our minds there is that notion of peace and goodwill to mankind and the importance of spending time with those we love. So every year we grit our teeth, gird our loins and knock back another glass of Baileys before inviting Auntie Bessie over for Christmas lunch. The real prize is the memories we create and the joy of making our loved ones happy. And if you believe that BS, you are just as sappy as I am. Bah, humbug.
Best wishes to you and yours! Sound off in the comments below and tell me your favourite/least favourite Christmas event.