November Cheer

November Cheer

So it’s nearing the end of November and we’ve been corporately bombarded with Christmas for almost a month already. Shops are decorated, celebrations are in full swing and general Christmas paraphernalia abounds everywhere. Unlike our American friends, we don’t have the hurdle of Thanksgiving to jump before we can legitimately reason that Christmas is upon us, and as such decide the season needs to last a full two months to really make it count. We must at least feel like we’re getting value for money given the amount we merrily wave off every December.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge and can generally turn any event into an excuse for an all-out party, but as a parent I resent that Santa materialises from the North Pole (or Lapland, or wherever he actually lives) a full six weeks before December 25th. Is his heating broken? Has he employed an army of machines to replace his politically incorrect elfish helpers and finish two months ahead of time? Or maybe he’s just fed up of Christmas, getting some twisted satisfaction from watching parents wearily endure the run up to the big day through gritted teeth and semi-patient smiles. The poor guy’s an immortal mythical figurehead. If he’s had to do it for the past two thousand years then why shouldn’t we suffer for a couple of months? Mrs Santa’s Christmas cake sucks too, so I’ve heard, but given the nature of his ever-afterness he’s had the wisdom to keep quiet on that front. Crappy cake consumption beats an infinity placating a grumpy wife hands down. Wise man. Oh hang on, sorry, that would be the nativity.

Call me old-fashioned, but the idea of my kids writing a list of things they want to receive on the big day hugely bothers me. The fact that they then send it to a far away fat man who never seems to change his clothes is beside the point; my issue lies in breeding a Christmas culture of inward focused expectation and greed in our next generation. In what other context is it acceptable for children to make a list of demands with the presumption they will receive everything on said list. I’ve witnessed far too many ugly scenarios involving meltdowns induced by the wrong present; or stressed parents in supermarkets panicking because the 156th item on their child's list is sold out.  

In short, I would love my kids to understand that Christmas is as much about giving as getting.  

Before you start pelting me with rotten clementines and calling me a humbug I’ll just clarify: creating that magical spirit of Christmas is right up there on my parenting priorities. Decorating the tree together (however long we spend it STILL ends up looking like we’ve tipped it upside down and dipped it in a random array of garish glittery tat). That wide eyed moment of wonder on Christmas morning when the kids realise Santa has visited- especially surprising given the countless fake North Pole phonecalls threatening transfer to the naughty list, the tangible magic in the air on Christmas eve as the waiting reaches it’s tantalising climax, and the delights of the chocolate coin breakfasting. All incredible childhood memories I want my kids to treasure up and remember with fondness in the more difficult times of life.

But also up there on my parenting priorities is raising children who derive genuine pleasure from seeing the fruit of their thoughtfulness and effort with others; whose smiles are sparked by the smiles of friends and who enjoy the giving part of Christmas just as much, if not more, than the receiving.  After all, isn’t that what the true spirit of Christmas is all about? Cosy family togetherness, hope in the darker season, and a radiant sense of wonder and joy that miraculously dissipates  (albeit for one month only) our typical cantankerous Britishness.

So Santa, while I appreciate your yuletide efforts and behaviour bribery opportunities, I would ask this- don’t sell out to the corporate masses and let them twist your traditional spirit into another commercial selling opportunity. We parents are shamefully sheep-like when it comes to peer pressure; that coupled with the doe-eyed pleas of our little darlings weakens our resolve to stand up for the true spirit of Christmas. Could you help us out a little by keeping away from our shops and off our TV screens until at least December? That’s the one and only wish on my list. Thank you.

Until that happens, here’s a little motto I keep in mind when buying presents at Christmas. It’s guaranteed to make your gifts more thoughtful and your kids less spoilt, and will probably have a great impact on those January blues as you realise your wallet’s looking fairly healthy come New Year. Oh and teachers will LOVE you for the last part. J

Something you want.
Something you need.
Something to wear.
Something to read.

Happy Yuletide prepping guys.


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