"Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine," so sang Cliff Richard, the Peter Pan of Pop. I'm sure there will be plenty of the latter but I am a little surprised that the former has not been banned on "Health (Elf? Very weak, I know) and Safety" grounds as encouraging inappropriate kissing (office Christmas party style). Since having children I have re-discovered the magic of Christmas but I do have a few issues...
Firstly, there is the matter of Advent calendars. Since when has a Hello Kitty calendar with stale chocolates behind each window had anything to do with Advent and Christmas? When I was young, an Advent calendar was a simple piece of card depicting a traditional nativity scene with badly-perforated windows and a host of supposedly Christmas-associated pictures behind each window. The challenge then was to open a window without inadvertently opening the other windows either side of it. The challenge nowadays is to find an Advent calendar which has anything remotely to do with Christmas in the traditional sense. I am fairly confident that my children have no true idea of what Advent actually is. This has been demonstrated by my youngest's assertion that Advent calendars should be rolled out 365 and that a stale chocolate just after brushing your teeth every morning should become the norm. To say she is confused about Advent is an understatement but I'm not surprised when she is greeted by Hello Kitty each December morning (although I guess I should be grateful it is not Anna/Elsa from "Frozen" this year - small mercies).
Then there is "Mary/Joseph Syndrome". I am 43 and still suffering the devastating effects of this affliction. It is a burden I must carry with me every day of my life but at this time of year it is particularly difficult. The world is divided into those who reached the dizzying heights of Mary/Joseph in their school nativity and those who did not. I did not. In fact I never made it past the host of angels - by that I mean I was a bog-standard angel, not even Gabriel. Many years of therapy and analysis have helped but I still find myself wondering why I was never picked for that role. Unfortunately this curse is being passed down the generations. Neither of my boys made Joseph and my little girl has never been Mary and her days of nativity plays are very much numbered. I only hope I can support them when the enormity of this hits them in later life.
As well as "Mary/Joseph Syndrome" I suffer from Christmas decorations OCD. I know Christmas is all about the kids blah, blah, blah but I don't want them anywhere near me when I am putting up my Christmas decorations. I dread those words, "Mummy, can we help you decorate the tree?" Through gritted teeth and with admirable restraint I have to allow them to do this (before rearranging and redecorating the minute they have gone to bed). As for the person who invented tinsel...well, I hope I never meet them. Kids love tinsel; I loathe tinsel. Kids want to drape tinsel around and over everything; I would happily see tinsel put on a list of banned, dangerous objects. I am aware, before you point it out, that this is not rational.
Technology has brought a host of new problems to Christmas. Not least, the plethora of apps which show Father Christmas's progress around the globe. I am starting to dread Christmas Eve already as I know what is coming - mental maths nightmare. My middle son is obsessed with the technicalities of FC's itinerary over the festive period. It is without doubt very good for his mental maths but not very good for my sanity that daily, soon to be hourly, he is calculating FC's speed per hour, houses visited per minute and inevitably always concluding its impossibility and then requiring some sort of rational explanation from me. This is very very tiring. Furthermore it is coupled with his new line of attack: "So and So got an X-box from Father Christmas last year, how come I got a satsuma?" Explain that one. How I would love to shout at So and So's parents and tell them how hard they are making it for the rest of us but also I would love to tell my son how lucky he is that Father Christmas comes at all as there are millions of children around the world whom he won't visit. Only, of course, I can't do that without ruining the magic of FC for him.
Finally, for now anyway, there is the visit to Santa's grotto with which to contend (with my children I might add before you become concerned that I go on my own...). I find the few minutes in his grotto excruciatingly awkward. The poor man has to have the same banal conversation with each and every child about their behaviour this year (despite it being patently obvious that the majority of children would receive absolutely 'nada' if presents were distributed on the basis of good behaviour). My children go mute the minute we enter the grotto, preferring to stare unnervingly at Santa (presumably trying to guess who is beneath the fake facial hair that is sliding inexorably down his chin), whilst I chat on in an insanely cheery (and most unnatural) manner to the man himself, blatantly lying about how wonderfully behaved my kids have been and how much they deserve wildly over-expensive tat for Christmas. Hand over the presents, Santa, and we can all just move along.
Perhaps I am being a little unfair: Christmas is a wonderful time of year, especially for children and I wouldn't want to ruin that magic. Time to head off now to do some Christmas shopping in overheated, overdecorated (with tinsel) shops with harassed shop assistants who have been forced to wear t-shirts with ridiculous pronouncements such as #santabanta and nodding reindeer antlers since the start of October. Happy Christmas!