Christmas Countdown – Delight or Dread?

As of today there are 60 days until Christmas. Have you:

a) written out what you’re planning to buy, or started to think about it at least?
b) managed to pick up one or two things as you mooch about the shops?
c) bought everything in last year’s sales and already wrapped the presents?
d) last minute plans to wait until Christmas Eve and buy whatever’s left on the shelves?
e) plans to give everyone cash and save yourself the bother and hassle of shopping?
f) intentions to ignore the whole event and hibernate?

I remember a time when I used to love Christmas shopping with a vengeance. The Christmas lights of Oxford Street and Regent Street were a big draw. A visit to view the windows of Selfridges and Hamleys another big draw.

Two days after Christmas I would languish in bed, wrought with exhaustion and close to collapse from the endeavour of cooking up homemade foodie goods for hampers, wrapping presents late into the night after a day’s work and creating a veritable feast for Christmas Day.  I had made a rod for my own back. I was more excited it about than the children. To me it was all about making it magical for everyone else. And what an effort that could be!

I’m one of those people that thinks they know what someone really wants more than they know themselves and often end up being more enthusiastic about the present than the recipient.

Examples are:

  • Self-heating hand warmers for my brother – he’s got no feeling in his right hand. Pointless!
  • Tattoo arm tights – I thought they were funny. Tasteless!
  • Selection of Cheese for my husband – he’s lactose intolerant. Insensitive!

The stress of organising and cooking the food is what exhausts me and delights me in equal measure. We always have a big group to feed so the panic is about making sure there’s enough for everyone and coping with the vagaries of people’s dietary requirements – egg allergy, lactose intolerance, coeliac sufferer and an anti-Lamb person. Our extended family is very close so there’s a lot of house-hopping and back to back dinners. All great fun but when it’s my turn to cook I like to push the boat out and come up with something that the folks back home wouldn’t typically come across. There’s so much inspiration in London and I like to bring a little bit of the literal melting pot that is London, back to Ireland.

The most loathed chore is the grocery shopping for Christmas. If I’m in Ireland, I go with my Mum to the supermarket at around 1am just to avoid the queues at the checkouts and the hordes during the day. It’s much more civilised to shop in the wee hours of the morning.

My husband watches my stress levels escalate and my eyes become wilder with some bemusement. ‘Why don’t you just buy enough to cover the 2 days that the shops are closed?’ he suggests. ‘And if we run out, one of the corner shops will be open.’ His pragmatic solution has saved me much angst and money ever since. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that there is always a shop open somewhere.

More Christmas madness is that I love mince pies so I always bake a tonne of them. Unfortunately no one else in my family likes them and last year I ended up eating the entire two dozen myself. I was eating them for breakfast, afternoon tea and dessert. Can’t wait until this year!

I will be spending Christmas in London this year. My Mum is coming over to spend it with us. One thing I’m looking forward to are the Christmas shows. I love a good Panto! ‘Oh yes he is! Oh no he isnt!’

One of the greatest highlights and pleasures for me is having the annual reunion with all my old friends. It’s wonderful but also sad, as we are now one less. We unite in a toast to the lovely person whose loss is felt deeply at these gatherings.

So as I try and figure out when I can fit in a trip to the Trafford Centre in Manchester (my favourite shopping destination!), I look forward to Christmas with both delight and dread.