Christmas is supposed to be a time when we deck the halls with boughs of holly and gather around the table eating monstrous portions of roasted birds and watching Christmas movies that make us giggle, and unite us, young and old. After all, whether you have seen the Muppets' version of A Christmas Carol, or prefer the original version, you know the story.
But the run up to Christmas is pure hell for the majority of us; however you dust it with frosting or wrap it with a bow. You decide to get up bright and early to make the trip to the shops, and smugly feel proud at yourself for cleverly beating the throngs of over walked children and henpecked husbands, until you get to the tube, and find yourself pressed face first into the glass window as thousands of other clever people do the same.
If you can drive to the town centre you feel a slight one-upmanship on all the train-bound shoppers. You do your shopping bright and early, return to the car and only wince slightly that the cost of parking is equal to nearly a week's rent, and pack all your bags neatly into the boot, only to sit in a queue for an hour to get out of the car park, followed by a queue to leave the town. By the time you eventually arrive home it is dark and rather than making mulled wine from the nice bottle of red you bought, you down it in one.
As Buddy the Elf would say, Christmas is a time for cheer "so sing it loud for all to hear!" but after a serious bout of Christmas shopping, I turn more into the Grinch than the happy little Elf that dances through Central Park. Don't get me wrong, I'm organised and am certainly armed with a list of the people that I need to buy for, the budget I am prepared to spend, and any ideas I might have come up with. I am nothing if not thoughtful, but guilty of being disorganised and waiting till the last minute to actually brace myself and bear the crowds of people all searching for that perfect present for their loved one, and then giving up, buying them vouchers and scuttling off to the nearest pub.
I try all the little tricks in the book to avoid the things that make me hate Christmas shopping so much; late night shopping to avoid the crowds, large shops so I don't feel like I am being herded like a sheep into the nearest pen, and the thinnest jumper possible to minimise the risk of sweeping something breakable off in a fancy shop and embarrassing myself, but it never seems to work. I huff and puff around the town, avoiding the major retailers in favour of boutiques that might be a little quieter, but it always warms my heart when I bump into the infant school choir, furiously trying to remember the words of Oh Come All Ye Faithful while their teacher endeavours to keep the little ones from running off in search of Santa.
This year I will make all my purchases in the safety of my own home (praise be for internet shopping!) where I will remain dry and panic free, and enjoy light refreshments of mulled wine and minced pies whenever the mood takes me. I will wrap to my heart's content and sign all my Christmas cards with a little kiss, venturing outside only to visit the nearest post-box. Just as long as the post man delivers them on time...
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