It’s week 94 and our second Covid Christmas, so as corny as it might sound, remember to take lots of deep breaths, realise that silence is sometimes the best reply and fresh air cures nearly all ills
• HOW many sleeps? Or rather how long ‘til we can sleep? Yup, the juggernaut otherwise known as Christmas is here – whether you’re ‘all set’ for it or not. Actually, isn’t it pure gas how many times you were asked/you asked exactly that over the past fortnight? And sure the only possible answer was ‘era yeah, I suppose I am,’ while trying to mask that mild panic in your eyes and voice. No one wanted to know the truth: that you were wavering between a 12lb turkey and a big chuck and hoping no one would cop the difference; you were obsessively tracking a parcel that should have arrived the previous week; you still had three important work deadlines to power through; you couldn’t decide if you needed back-up presents for your siblings even though you all agreed you weren’t doing gifts this year but you feared someone would go rogue; you remained hopeful of still having time to deep clean the house, but you knew you’d be lucky to clean the fridge and you didn’t feel remotely bad for using the environment as an excuse for not sending any cards, because you really just couldn’t be bothered. No, no one needed to know that. They all had their own stuff going on.
• Anyway for me the next few days are about managing expectations. I tend to think of Christmas Day as being a bit like opening a festive hamper. There’s the initial rush and excitement, when everything looks very promising. But when you poke around a bit, all that’s really there is an odd looking liqueur and a few jars of truffle oil (to add to last year’s truffle oil, that you still have. Untouched). In other words it can all fall a bit flat. That’s why I generally prefer Christmas Eve when it’s all still to play for, even if I generally spend it in the kitchen. I actually dramatically declared back at the start of November that we weren’t going to do ‘The Dinner’ at all this year. Instead we’d give ourselves the gift of a free day on the 24th, and head off on a big family walk, visit other people (who would be stuck in their kitchens), maybe go for a drink, do some last minute shopping, all rosy cheeked and jolly. Then I started planning my alternative Christmas day menu, which was going be a soup (vegetable I felt was too pedestrian, but would anyone really go for shrimp and crab bisque?); a charcuterie platter (just cold turkey really), and some hot tapas (basically potato croquettes), and sure in the end I decided the dinner would be as easy. Pass the vegetable peeler.
• It is a day though when everything is amplified – all feelings get ramped up a notch or 10 and it can all get very intense. And hot. Why is it always so hot? I remember my first year as a mum, losing the plot in a very spectacular way in front of my extended family because the baby wouldn’t nap. There were tears. Lots of them, and all from me. In the end someone put me down for the nap, and the baby had great craic for herself once someone took off the ridiculous outfit I had her decked out in. Then other years, the day was just an inconvenience, getting in the way of St Stephen’s night, the biggest night out of the year, when there was so much joy in all the land (possibly brought on by cream liqueur) and you’d be recovering until at least New Year’s Eve, when you’d do it all over again.
• There was another year, when my now-husband plunged me into deep despair without even realising it. He was a bit of a traveller but could usually be relied on to show up at midnight mass which presented me with an annual window of opportunity to impress, albeit a slim one. So one year I went all out and wore a fur-trimmed headband, leather jacket and tulle skirt (think modern day Dr Zhivago and you’re getting it) but had the misfortune to sit under a very strong overhead gas heater in the church. I was semi-delirious by the first reading, and was literally melting by the sermon. Not that it mattered one bit as he skulked out a side door after communion without looking right or left and all I was left with was the smell of singed fur.
• Anyway, what I’m getting at is that we’re all coming at this highly-charged day from different angles, with different stuff going on (including singed headbands), so we need to go very easy on each other. Add to the mix that this is our second Covid Christmas. Some advice that I’d be wise to remember myself is to be kind, listen, take a moment before replying, realise that not replying at all is sometimes the best option and take lots of deep breaths. Have a cry, even if you don’t know why, don’t be thinking anyone has it more sussed than you, and remember that fresh air cures nearly all ills. Also try to enjoy some peace and quiet on the 25th when, for a few hours at least, there won’t be anyone telling you ‘how to have the perfect tablescape,’ or ‘perfectly chilled champagne,’ or whatever, because it’s only a matter of hours before the New Year roadshow rolls into town and you’ll be bombarded with advice on ‘how to be the best you’ before you’ve even finished the tin of Roses.
• Finally, a very Happy Christmas to my readers, who have been very generous with their nice comments this year, and kindly overlooked the many times I’ve repeated myself or had an ‘off’ week … or two!