Christmas magic? Are you kidding?
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012
Christmas comes but once a year - and so does decorating the tree. Thank Frosty for that, says STACIA BRIGGS...
It seemed like a good idea to have new flooring put down just before Christmas – yet another decision made in haste and repented at leisure.
Quite why I thought it was sensible to have to move three rooms' worth of furniture into one room and be without several vitally-important rooms just days before Christmas defies all logic.
In a previous life, I bet I was a hooded Flagellant Monk (Google it).
I blame real wood flooring for bringing on some kind of middle-class blindness: so excited was I by the prospect of having matching floors that I totally forgot about Christmas. This lends weight to my first proposal on becoming Prime Minister: to make Christmas like the Olympics: something which happens every four years.
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Thankfully, I have the children to remind me on a painfully regular basis – even though mine are now 16 and 18, they still approach Christmas with the unfettered glee of a four-year-old: every ritual they remember from yuletides past must be adhered to even though they are ancient and, in every other way, worldly-wise and cynical – that it is the season to be jolly/open my wallet.
The news that we would be unable to put up a Christmas tree until a few days before December 25 thanks to the floor upheaval was met with the kind of steely glares that I do not believe embody the true meaning of Christmas.
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And even though I now boast one child that can vote and another that could join the army, I still feel a deep sense of responsibility when it comes to Christmas.
I spend weeks ensuring that the festive season is a non-stop rollercoaster of magic and enchantment and in doing so practically kill myself: the worst thing is, I have made this bed and now I am lying in it.
I am the Ghost of Christmas Future for any parent currently saddling themselves with 'family rituals' they think are charming now, but will be cursing about in 10 years' time when the kids refuse to entertain the idea that 'Santa' won't leave new pyjamas on Christmas Eve (that have to arrive magically) or won't be palmed off with a £1 chocolate advent calendar when they're used to 24 individually-wrapped mini presents which they claim from the wooden box in the front room every morning.
I used to have the energy for this stuff. Now I am old and tired. I barely have the energy to record EastEnders, let alone watch it.
By the time it gets to December 26, I hate magic and enchantment so much that I could happily drop-kick Frosty the Snowman into a furnace and then dance in his melt-water.
But still. One cannot have one's tinies (even though they are now practically pensionable) disappointed at Christmas, so I agreed to dig out the threadbare fake tree from the loft and assemble it upstairs to plug the yawning gap in celebrations downstairs.
The static electricity given off by the fake Christmas tree almost gave me a coronary (I offer this idea, for free, to Casualty for a future festive episode) and that was before I even tried to put the cursed thing together.
Surrounded by sparsely-needled lengths of wire, it required a Mensa-brain to lock each strand into the plastic 'stump'. I do not have a Mensa-brain: I remembered precisely why I had crossed over to real trees.
I have a comedy allergy to very green things (cucumber, moss, cut grass, Christmas trees, kiwi fruit and so forth – Ainsley Harriott has the same thing, which I defy you not to bring to mind when you see him dancing on Strictly's festive special this year) which meant that for years I would only allow fake trees into the house.
As the years went by, and my desperation to make Christmas look like it does on telly kicked in, I decided that the possibility of spending the festive period in A&E was a price I was prepared to pay for a tree that smelled like the air freshener in my car.
Indeed I realised that at some points - such as during the preparation of Christmas dinner, the annual wrapping marathon and during the last supermarket shop before December 25 - I would actively welcome spending the festive period in A&E.
When the children were young, the decorating of the tree descended into hand-to-hand warfare within a matter of minutes. Thus:
7.01pm: Children find tree decorations. Children notice the decorations they recently made (sequins on cereal packets, glitter on limp pinecones) have 'disappeared'. Claims that Santa's elves must have come back for them because they were so lovely fall on deaf ears when a trail of moulted sequins/glitter are found to lead to the bin. Silence their fury with chocolate tree decoration.
7.03pm. Tree is decorated. All decorations are in one small quarter of the tree, causing it to lean dangerously towards the radiator. Frantically blinking fairy lights feel like molten lava to the touch. Make mental note to keep curtains closed in case of passing epileptics.
7.05pm. Children ask if they can have a chocolate from the tree. Explain that the chocolates are for everyone, and that they can have another one tomorrow night.
7.06pm: Children ask for a chocolate from the tree. Say no. Explain again.
7.07pm: Children ask for a chocolate from the tree. Say no. Firmly.
7.08pm: Children ask for a chocolate from the tree. Ignore Supernanny's advice, bellow at children, asking them what part of 'no' they don't understand.
7.09pm. Children ask for a chocolate from the tree so many times that ears start to bleed. Slump on sofa, defeated, allow children to eat every chocolate on the tree, interrupting only to weakly ask them not to eat the tree because it cost £39.95.
7.10pm: Dog knocks over Christmas tree. Fairy lights fuse entire house.
Nowadays, the chance of enticing the kids to help me decorate the tree is minimal, even though I point out to them the Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook/Twitter potential that Christmas trees offer.
I decorated the tree alone. The decorations were well-spaced. I switched on the lights and they fused the house and I welcomed this one throwback to the past.
Still, there are only a few weeks until we can pack the Christmas twigs away for another year. And I'm only ever a slice of cucumber away from a nice ride in a quiet ambulance. In other news, this year I finished my Christmas shopping in August: the address for hate mail is next to the letters page.