By John Kirkbride
THIS has felt like both the longest and shortest 12 months ever – but, believe it or not, Christmas is almost upon us.
To be fair, this year’s seasonal aisles had already started appearing in the supermarkets while we were still basking in some late summer sunshine in September.
Do we really need Christmas to last a quarter of the year? And is it any wonder that some of us get the urge to rip down the festive decs at midnight on Christmas Day?
The three wise men, better known as [insert your chosen politicians here] have seen fit to plunge us into Lockdown 2, which may (or may not) be lifted on December 2.
No doubt they will have more to say on the subject of Christmas over the coming weeks. (“Wear Santa hats, don’t wear Santa hats, but always wear a Santa hat”).
But what kind of Christmas will it be? Are we going to be confined to barracks for the duration?
Or will Boris baulk at the idea of being the PM who put the kybosh on Christmas, and throw the rule book out into the snow? (If we get any, that is, what with global warming and everything).
I feel the only sensible approach to this year’s festive season is to grin, bear it and make the best of it. Yes, I know most of us have been doing that for months. But if we can cling on to that glimmer of hope offered by the demise of 2020 – like a vaccine or the welcome return of news about Brexit – then surely we can keep calm and carry on for a little bit longer.
But exactly how, you might well ask, do we go about making the best of it? Here are a few ideas.
Do things that make you smileI think it’s fair to say that apart from lockdown haircuts, most of us have had little to grin about this year. So any festive activity that will bring a crinkle to the corner of your eye is not to be sniffed at (unless it’s a Christmas name-the-cheese game). I have come up with some suggestions for activities that might cheer you up.
Light up the neighbourhood
If you normally stick a few fairy lights up outside your home over Christmas, why not really go to town this year and light the place up like a… well, a Christmas tree.
With a bit of luck your neighbours will join in the fun, and before you know it you’ll have people turning up looking for guest houses and asking where the tower is.
It’s fun, it’s festive and it’s free – apart from the cost of the lights and the massive electricity bill, of course.
Dress up for Yuletide
We can either ignore this Christmas and pretend it isn’t happening, or we can embrace it (if you can remember how).
I suggest you embrace it by dressing up in your best festive attire. Wear Christmas ties to the office, sport a festive jumper in Tesco, or festoon some holly in your hair. (Well, maybe something less prickly).
If you show people you’re determined to have fun this Christmas, you might actually find yourself enjoying it.
Immerse yourself in schmaltz
Over the course of the festive period you’ll no doubt be able to see every single Christmas film ever made, on one or other of the 3.6 million channels we now have access to. Your natural instinct may be to avoid them or throw crockery at the TV.
For a change this year, why not immerse yourself in the mawkish sentimentality and soak up some seasonal schmaltz. You’ll either end up smiling or needing a row of stiff brandies – so a win-win, right?
Break with tradition
This Christmas will be different, and my advice is to embrace that difference and enjoy a break with tradition.
Who says we should have turkey for Christmas dinner? (FYI, I just looked it up and apparently it was Henry VIII who started it. But this is the guy who beheaded two of his wives and trashed the monasteries, so not exactly a good role model).
The point is, like rules, traditions are there to be bent. So why not cheer yourself up by recreating some of your favourite holiday meals?
Forget turkey the bird and transport yourself back to those hot exotic days in Turkey the country with some spicy aromatic meatballs. Crank up the radiators, stick some shorts on and use a red biro to make it look as if you’ve been bitten by mosquitoes.
Or why not recreate your time in Spain with a delicious dish of paella? Dig out the sombrero that seemed like a good idea at the time, mix a jug of sangria and forget the fact that our Spanish amigos are currently living under a state of emergency.
If you want to keep it simple, re-live that day trip to Diggle and make your family a lovely big portion of fish and chips. You could even eat it out of last month’s well-thumbed issue of Saddleworth Independent.
If you really like turkey, however, and you’re a bit of a stickler for tradition, feel free to eat whatever makes you happy. Just don’t come crying to me when it turns out to be dry.
Make your own Christmas tree
Wondering what to do with all those leftover cardboard boxes and carrier bags from the lockdown deliveries? Then get the kids involved and make your own Christmas tree.
There are several advantages to this, not least of which is the fact that it’s free. It will also keep the kids occupied for a while and stop them trying to dress the cat up as an elf.
Moreover, it’s a great way to make friends and family smile (or burst out laughing) when they come to visit. Except they probably won’t be coming to visit, will they? But that’s okay. Take a photo and post it on social media, then sit back and wait for it to go viral.
Here’s how to create your home-made Christmas tree. Erm, some glue, scissors probably… actually, I haven’t a clue. I’m afraid these are ideas rather than instructions, but I’m sure you’ll find a way. If all else fails, give the cardboard boxes to the kids, as they generally find them more entertaining than their actual presents.
Things to avoid this Yuletide
Kitchen sink drama
Never buy your wife a new kitchen gadget for Christmas. A) she won’t thank you; and b) they’re generally about as useful as a fishnet face mask.
If you have pets, don’t leave meat to ‘rest’ while you pop off to watch the Queen’s speech. You’d be surprised what you can fit through a cat flap.
When someone gives you a Christmas gift you don’t like and you pop it in a drawer as a ‘spare’ present, don’t commit the schoolboy error of giving it back to the same person the following year.
Don’t light the Christmas pudding anywhere near the curtains. Or the dog. Or your paper hat. Or anyone’s hair. In fact, don’t light the Christmas pudding.
White Christmas envy
The chances of snow on the big day are disappointingly slim, so get used to the fact that you’re more likely to see a white giraffe in Saddleworth than a white Christmas.
Don’t go online shopping after too many port and brandies. I once bought a rear light cover for a 1965 Ford Anglia. I’ve still no idea why.
Turkey curry on Boxing Day is one of those things that always seems like a good idea. It isn’t. Open a tin of cat food instead.
If you have children or relatives in their mid to late teens, never be tempted to buy them clothes for Christmas. They’ll get about as much wear as Santa’s red tunic.
Whichever way things turn out this year, I think it’s important that we appreciate what we’ve got and make the most of it.
I sincerely hope you all have the best Christmas you can and that the New Year will bring us all better tidings.
So, bearing in mind that some of you will now be planning a paella for Christmas dinner, feliz Navidad!