Peace on earth

So this is Christmas. A joyful time of year when we see all our family and friends and feel merry and thankful.

At least, that’s how I remember it but I’m noticing more people this year putting themselves under pressure about it being magical and potentially spending quite a lot of this joyous period charging about, dreading packing up the car and actually feeling pretty tense. I bellowed ‘I JUST HAVE SO MUCH TO DO’ at Doug last night, before flouncing off to huff and write another list. I was just shy of grabbing him by the lapels to make it more dramatic.

Christmas used to involve time off work or school, circling everything you were going to watch in the Christmas Radio Times while snacking on Quality Street and cheese, and a few nights out celebrating the festive period. Sure, there would be a bit of shopping but it was at a dawdling pace and with a lunch stop.

Now it feels like there is a LOT to do and it’s done at a manic pace. Some people seem to relish it – or at least manage to look like they do; others are feeling exhausted and we’re not even in Christmas week yet.

A friend sent a message the other day saying she was overwhelmed with all the things she needed to do, the house was ‘a shit tip’ and seeing all the super-mums acing it was making her feel pressured and anxious. Now, if you’re breezing through December with a genuine smile on your face, you go for it. If the smile is weak and your mind is racing, I think we should just pause for a moment.

I suppose the question is, do we need to do all the things on our to-do list. How often are you greeted with ‘Oh you know, knackered’ when you ask someone how they are? Everyone is banging on about how tired they are, and yet working themselves in to a frenzy to do and make and be everything AND with sparkles on. Can we take a couple of things off the list and will Christmas still be Christmas? I don’t want to feel more done in after Christmas than I do already.

This is what I remember about Christmas growing up. Every year Dad would come home with a Christmas tree that mum deemed too big/small/full/sparse, and it went up THE WEEKEND before Christmas day. We had croissants Christmas morning (the height of sophistication in the 80s). Our Christmas decorations consisted of mistletoe hung by the front door, accompanied by the cracking of innuendos to everyone that came a-knocking. For the tree a shambling mix of homemade and then occasional overpriced baubles where mum had thought she should up her game, but they would be totally lost amid the multi-coloured tinsel. Towards the end of the box when everyone had lost interest she’d tip it upside down over the tree and see what stuck. I can remember friends at school saying ‘My mum’s got a silver theme for the tree this year’ and wondering how one would go about having a themed tree that included gold-sprayed ping pong balls (a school project of my now 45 year old brother’s that are still going strong) and a garden gnome in place of the fairy.

Not my parents
Not my parents

Presents were of course always a highlight as a kid, the frenzied unwrapping and squeals of excitement; one brother would deliberately open his extra slowly so he was still going when we’d all finished. Things changed a bit the year my Aunty passed away and Mum announced that we’d be doing Secret Santa, spending a maximum of £10 on one person and she was giving her money to charity instead. Spending a fortune on gifts which, as young adults none of us needed, just felt wrong for mum when her heart was feeling a bit broken. Most of all, we had each other to focus on. It was a lovely, raucous family Christmas. The Secret Santa tradition has stayed (kids still get gifts – we’re not cruel!) and it’s not so much that it shifts the focus from presents but that it highlights they really aren’t the thing that makes Christmas. I should probably add that Mum didn’t have a lot to lose in the new arrangement – a few years previous she’d bought AND WRAPPED a sieve for herself from my dad. Now I realise that while we laughed hysterically, she (mother of 6, hardworking nurse and probably pretty flippin’ tired) may have felt a teensy bit pissed off. I’d probably respect her more if she revealed she gobbed in his Christmas dinner that year (love you Dad).

On that note, the other thing that may of course rear it’s head are Christmas tensions with your partner.

You’ve asked casually (you may have done it in a drawl to try and cover up the manic anxiety that you’re actually feeling) ‘so…. when are you…y’know…doing your Christmas shopping?’ and they’ve said casually (because they are actually casual and oblivious to your manic anxiety) ‘probably next week’ aka Christmas Eve. They’ll look at you like you’re deranged as you march about the house in a deranged manner and wail about all the things you need to do, and they’re thinking 1) what’s the point of Christmas cards 2) does anyone care if the cranberry sauce is homemade and 3) if it’s making you stressed, why are you doing any of it? Which if you combine that question with the fact that the things kids remember will not be the beauty of the tree or the taste of your Nigella parsnips, it is certainly not worth getting in a frenzy about.

Last night Doug said ‘just tell me what you need me to do’; I think most blokes would rather be involved and not have a shouty wife. Give a man the responsibility of the turkey and he’s basically (in his eyes) responsible for the whole of Christmas; he’ll set to it with gusto. He’ll buy the most ridiculously oversized one he can find and refer to it as ‘my’ turkey.  He’ll tear rather than chop herbs in a masculine fashion a la Jamie and when it’s ceremoniously carried to the table he will stand back like he’s just slammed his actual manhood on the table for everyone to admire. You may have prepped and chopped eight types of vegetables and purchased every single other thing on the table, but hey – at least it’s one off the list.

There are women running themselves ragged all over the country and it’s in our power to STOP. If you’ve young children or babies you especially have the right to sit down and let other people take over. You have years to perfect your hosting skills, but you’re no use to anyone if you’re up until 1am quietly sobbing while adding intricate bows to your parcels.

If you’ve turned your house in to Lapland and you’re not the least bit anxious or tired, good on you. If on the other hand you are in a spin with all the stuff to do? I say we crack open the selection box and take the night off. If my main drive is to make it lovely for the kids, they won’t notice most of the ‘stuff’ on my list. When I stop for a second, I KNOW this. I also know everyone involved will notice if I am calm and enjoying the moment with them.

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas x

Images: ukchristmastv.weebly.com; pinterest.com/paulicabrera/pausa

So tell me, are you enjoying the build up? Which bits are important to you?

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30 thoughts on “Peace on earth

  1. hannah says:

    Loved this, all so very true hence me only commenting now!!! Is is wrong to be glad its all over and we can get back to being “normal” I will however miss saying “please put that bauble back its not a football” x

  2. Terri says:

    I haven’t written a single card (not even the ones I need to post – ahem). Not a present wrapped. Some gifts still to buy. But as long as the children are sorted – which they are – I’m finding it hard to care. Not bah humbug; more self-preservation. No one really wants a mum, wife or friend who’s freaking out about the right kind of tablecloth. And before I get one of those, I’m prioritising the purchase of MY yearly bottle of Baileys. So there.

  3. Ally says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this blog. You just made me cry with relief that I’m not losing it, I’m a new mum and I can just chill the heckins out. Whether on Christmas or on whether my husband has bothered to pick up his pants this morning… Thank you for making sense and speaking much truth. I think I love you. All of you.

    • Steph says:

      Ah, what a lovely comment! My pleasure, and you really DO have the right to chill out and let everyone else run about. For your sanity, you must! Thank you, and MERRY CHRISTMAS – may it be a magical one x

  4. Complicated Gorgeousness says:

    Give a man the responsibility of the turkey and they are responsible for Christmas. Genius line. I am so delegating that. It gets crazy doesn’t it and we’ll do the same next year and the year after. My husband bemoans the adverts in November and I tell him it has to start then or you’ll be totally stressed by December. Hope your hard work is nearly done – put your feet up and have an egg nog xx

  5. Hurrah For Gin says:

    I’ve got loads left to buy and have wrapped nothing – i want to punch people who say they are doing their wrapping in the face. Why is everyone taking all the fun away by being so annoyingly organised?!
    xxx

  6. brummymummyof2 says:

    I have shouted at Stephen. In a shopping centre. Only the other day. SCREAMED for him looking miserable when Christmas shopping. However we have had a chat and I laid down the law which was 1) help me 2) let me do anything but worship the ground I walk on. He opted for 2. Obvs. Ho ho ho xxx

  7. Sarah (@tamingtwins) says:

    Oh love, this made me laugh a lot. Barnsey and I had these exact “conversations” this weekend (about my lists, not about his manhood on the table..). You are so right of course about it all. I think having small children who understand more this year has bought it home to me that it’s about this little things and not perfection. Xx

  8. Nic says:

    I’ve just been uhm-ing and ah-ing about whether I ‘ought’ to do Christmas cards this year, amidst the chaos of boxes and crap from our recent house move….. It’s officially off the list.
    And now, I sigh with relief.
    Thanks ladies xx

  9. Megan says:

    How funny, I bought the Radio Times for the first time in years this morning and I’m determined to have an hour circling things (probably to record and watch in ooh, August), drinking Sherry and eating a box of chocolates 🙂

    Love the idea of a slowed-down Christmas. Not going to happen today as I have FOUR-party-Friday (daughter’s at nursery this morning, boys’ discos at school later and I’m helping, then 2 parents’ drinks locally). Only so many sausage rolls a person can eat but it’ll be fun, if slightly hectic!!

  10. Suzanne says:

    And that in a nutshell is me – crazed loon running around and getting stressed about everything. I even wrote a post on it this week! So here we are 12th December with still so much to do. Who actually cares? No one but me to be honest and it’s about time I realised that! My husband sounds exactly like yours – doesn’t get the fuss and yes, his one job is to buy the Turkey. Oh and think of something to buy his mum 😉 x

    • Steph says:

      I think you and I might have a lot of similar traits Suzanne! I’ll keep reminding you and you can keep reminding me? SIT DOWN.

  11. Claire says:

    Nothing wrong with a croissant on xmas morning !! Lol that’s what we’ll be having.
    I read this as I feel a bit like my head might explode , now having 2 boys in different schools & me working in a 3rd im struggling to keep track of where I’m meant to be & when. Have nowhere near finished shopping & my house looks like a shit tip ……… Thank you for making me realise I’m not alone !!
    Oh we too do the secret Santa thing in our family , names out of a hat £30 limit . ,makes life much easier

    • Steph says:

      There is NOTHING wrong with a Christmas day croissant – at the time they were an annual treat, which isn’t quite the case now, but if my parents changed it there would be anarchy! Glad you liked it, definitely not alone. Good luck! xx

  12. Mel says:

    Love this. So true. I spent about 3 hours the other day decorating whole house to look Christmassy only for guests to come round and say “good size tree” and for my husband to puff his chest up proudly and say “seven foot that.” You BOUGHT a tree! Thats all you did!! You BOUGHT it!! (Which took an hour to choose!) I decorated the bugger and tried to break up a bauble war between toddlers an hour later. Love the image of your family christmas. Sounds lovely. Although sad you didn’t mention your mum trying to buy urn to pass off as a vase for secret Santa?! Totally agree with delegation of tasks. Makes like easier than being disappointed with expecting them to work it out. Left Tom a list while I went out last night and the competent git did it all. Phew. means 4 less things on my list. He did look at me quite expectantly tho after…

  13. Natalie says:

    This is brilliant…..no word of a lie…as I type this and drool over 1D (having just commented ‘they’re so manly now’ (shoot me)) ben is sat circling programmes in the Christmas radio times cos we both remembered our parents doing it as kids and he asked me to buy it!! (We’ve never bought it!) I just cried with laughter when I read this blog !!!!! He’s literally having the time of his life shouting out all the fun films we will be able to record!
    The Peacock household is similar to your folks place and each year my mum does EVERYTHING pretty much….but then my dad ‘decorates’ the Christmas cake my mum has made (aswell as everything else) with a made up jingle or poem and the best Christmas shapes you can get from icing pens and he literally takes full glory as any piece is given to anyone!! It’s a very lovely tradition and I LOVE it but I know there have been years in the past where mum has muttered ‘he didn’t bloody make it though’ as someone tucks into a piece……

    I absolutely hear you on this . I’m taking the pressure OFF and know I’ll have a better time…..x I’ll post your card through the door when I can be arsed 😉 xx love you x

  14. Jo Wilson says:

    Oh how very true!! Great blog Steph, just what I needed after today’s panic that IT IS ONLY 2 WEEKS UNTIL XMAS AND I HAVE SO MUCH TO DOOOOO!!! Loved the bit about men’s input too; as a child the success of our Christmas hinged on whether the yolks of the boiled eggs my dad made us on Christmas morning were soft-boiled enough…my poor mum having to do everything while my dad made a right song and dance about some boiled eggs and then huffed all day if they were too hard!! Xxx