The Twelfth Blog Of Christmas: The End

christmas mug

The first time I properly considered the Twelve Days Of Christmas, I was quite surprised by a number of factors. Firstly, with all the lords leaping, drummers drumming and ladies dancing, surely your “true love” is going to be sent down for human trafficking? Just something to consider there. Secondly, twelve days of Christmas may sound magical to some, but it is unrealistic to the rest. My family go full throttle with the celebrations from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day, and by the end of it we are well and truly knackered. And finally, the fact that the twelve days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day itself, and finish on January 6th, surprises me. Surely it’s time to move on once the New Year is here?

Sometimes I think it’s just to allow us some flexibility in getting our decorations down and finishing up all the leftover food (the twelfth day is upon us and we still have several blocks of cheese to get through, plus half of my Mum’s Christmas cake). Another part of me thinks it’s to do with easing the pain of letting Christmas go after all the build-up. One small cynical part of me thinks it’s to allow corporations just a bit more time to shove sales, discounts and must have deals down your throat. Whatever it is, I doubt there are many people who will be continuing the celebrations for a dozen days.

And you know what? That’s a good thing. Everything ends after all, and although that might be a particularly bleak way of looking at it, the beauty of Christmas is that it is an annual constant; it’ll roll back around in its usual fashion next winter, or even October as the retailers continue to push the festive limit. But even the supermarkets have moved on; one of my local branches had all their decorations down by the end of December, and were already pushing the “limited time offer” of the Crème Eggs. Only till April you say?! We better get our skates on!

At the other end of the spectrum, it allows those Scrooges among us room to breathe. It might seem ludicrous to those of us who particularly indulge in the festive period, but not everyone likes Christmas or indeed celebrates it; last year, one of my housemates didn’t even go home for the big day, and spent it alone in our house share. While I find that image horrific, others won’t be bothered, and of course they are entitled to their own opinion. If anything, both sides will stop spouting their opinion of Christmas, and we can all go back to getting along.

Do I have any regrets from the period? Well, apart from the number of mince pies I consumed, I didn’t take as many photos as I could have; I always forgot to beg and plead family members to try and smile for a handful of pictures. While they would have been pleasing trinkets to an extent, the honest truth is that I was simply too engrossed in enjoying myself to even think of it. Christmas is best experienced in the moment itself; besides, photos just would have been too enticing for me to look over at other times of year, when really Christmas should be the last thing on my mind.

So, farewell Christmas. Despite a few bumps, 2015 was an absolute cracker, and 2016’s has a lot to live up to. Bring plenty of festive cheer (and more mince pies) on your sleigh when you come back.

The First Blog of Christmas: when does it actually begin?

advent calendar

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas shopping season. Aisles packed with frantic parents trying to remember what size shirt their teenage son is, or frustrated Dads charging past a mechanical reindeer that glides past the shop entrances. With an artificial tree  several floors high and a Santa’s grotto with queues that would make retail CEOs weak at the knees. Crawley County Mall looks just like a Christmas card, albeit one you send in jest to a close friend to bemoan the festive season in the twenty-first century.

I myself was doing a spot of festive shopping a couple of weeks ago, and considering how busy it was then, I dread to think how it is now. But a particular scene in River Island really got to me: I was queuing to buy some clothes  when I heard a young girl ask “Mum, ow many days until Santa comes?” There was a pause while Mum did the maths, before she replied “34.” The girl’s response? “But that’s aaaaaaaages away.”

My God. The little primary school girl had hit the big red man with the long white beard square in the face with a barrage of snowballs. She doesn’t understand why on earth we should be getting in the Christmas mood in November any more than we do, except we just shrug it off and occasionally shake our fists at the retail giants who shove mince pies down our throats at the earliest opportunity.

Believe me, I understand it’s good to get ahead of the game and buy presents now before it gets really stressful, and some retailers only stay afloat thanks to the festive period. But I want to hear “Fairytale of New York” for the first time when I start opening the doors on my advent calendar, not forced upon me by a fuzzy speaker next to a bleary eyed elf who looks ready to drown themselves in eggnog.

I know some stubborn purists and borderline Scrooges who are worse than me and insist Christmas belongs to Christmas Day itself, and not a day earlier. I suppose I sit comfortably in the middle; once the advent calendar has begun, so does my festive spirit. Out comes a colossal yuletide playlist, mince pies are always waiting in my kitchen cupboard, and I’m never seen without my Christmas jumper. I’ve had the same one for three years now, and never felt the need to change it; it has all the festive qualities without the weird knobbly bits that look so unflattering.

A month of Christmas shenanigans is enough for me. In my books, extending the festive season in to November removes some of the magic that makes Christmas so special; that feeling we long for each time it comes round. Yet that only reinforces just how diverse Christmas is, even within your own country. For many in times of hardship, be those economic or personal, Christmas is a constant that we can rely on to come about and spread peace and goodwill. Numerous renditions of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas stress the importance of temporarily forgetting your troubles so that they do not constantly weigh you down.

In fact, the more I think about it, who am I to bemoan a source of comfort to those who really need it? If it really does roast your chestnuts, the best thing to do is to keep it to yourself, like all the other annoyances you deal with on a daily basis. So, if you were to ask when does the festive season actually begin, I guess there are two answers to my question: Christmas Day will always be the main source of celebrations, but otherwise Christmas begins when you want it to. Just make sure you go into it with all guns blazing.