'Tis the season of glitter and tat, actually starting in about July when the first cards appear on the shelves, albeit that the summer hols are still pending, never mind an autumn break. Planning and shopping for an ordeal by food, with helpful hints and tips for buying your frozen turkey now
, to avoid disappointment, not forgetting the chipolatas at only 42% more expensive than last year. Carrots for the reindeer. If the telly ads are anything to go by, a state of siege at the meal table is recommended, celebrations to include paper hats and hooters, crackers exposing dreadful jokes, unaccustomed formality in the shape of place settings with cutlery and glassware. So jolly, so festive.
Before all the eating gets going, the tyranny of the now is entrenched in a single commandment: spend! spend! spend! bearing in mind always that spending money as if you had it is no barrier. Pay later. Enjoy. Forget the rest, especially the (inescapable) fact that in addition to paying for the must-haves, the debt also has to be paid for. Sooner or later. And of course later is, well... later. Then. Not now. Doing the sums, mindful of the reckoning which follows the spendfest, is not cool. Boring. A tiresome waste of time which could be much better spent spending. Meanwhile, in fact all day every day, the telly ads (see above) are encouraging us to engage fully and extravagantly in the seasonal beano, the all-consuming bonanza, the dressing up and the loosening of the waistband. More Christmas pud? Oh well, just a small scoop.
Like Black Friday, Christmas Day is now rather fluid, and no longer restricted to only one day. Unlike Black Friday, however, there are no bargains, real or imagined. On the contrary, prices are known – nay, expected – to be hiked up and forgiven, because no-one wants to be seen not getting into the seasonal spirit of the thing. Not to worry. The online blurbs moving across the bottom of the screen do hint at APR, and although the finer details are less than fully understood, or even bothered about, it'll all be absolutely fine. After all, it is imperative that everyone has a great time. Repeat: so jolly, so festive.
For some people, however, there is a slight problem. An issue. Unavoidable, unless one is prepared for family fallouts which may have a nasty tendency to fester long after the festivities are over.
The issue is travelling. Getting from A to B, because this year it's at the in-laws' again, or a mandatory visit to the sibling who insists on everything traditional and done properly, or the entire-family-reunion lasting up to three days because it'll be First Christmas for the firstborn of the new generation and aunty is flying in specially. Condemned to consider using public transport: nowadays the great uncertainty and almost certainly going to be a low form of life. There might be some available, somewhere, now and then, but it would be folly to rely on it being anywhere within reach on the day it's needed. Moreover, taking the car is not on the wish-list when the distance is in other respects manageable as a there-and-back journey on the same day: the driver is denied any acquaintance with the demon drink. Alcohol-free gin? Words fail.
On the other hand... Tucked away behind the ancient sturdy walls of the wee swamp, preparations are underway for a sustained period of withdrawal from the frenzy and the dread prospect of jingles, Bing Crosby, Christmas Specials – aka repeats. There is, and there always is, an alternative, and with the right form of words, gifts and promises of future recompense a case may be made which will satisfy the to-be-scheduled family pow wow – or at least allow them to tolerate your departure from accepted family norms. A stay-at-home bash, perhaps sharing it with the nearest if not the dearest, and ensuring beyond peradventure that the turkey is (a) large enough, and (b) defrosted in good time. Linger a while in jim-jams and slippers; exchange the prezzies around the tree / on the floor / in the garden / wherever; partake of a leisurely breakfast and make sure there's a special treat for the feline lodger. Do your own thing. Create a possibility space.
Just think... The separation of peer / family pressure from pressing reality need not always be seen as an unnecessary challenge, legitimising those who conspire to doing nothing different actually appear logical, as in: go with the flow; shut up and drink up; for God's sake don't ruffle family feathers, especially granny's.
And after it's all over and you are telling the tale of this wonderful Christmas, at home, safe and cosy and positively reeking of goodwill, peace and harmony, reflect on those who sigh and say 'Oh I wish...'. Share some of the goodwill and point out that it's simple (though perhaps not easy). Just do it. It's doable.
Something in a glass? Ah, well maybe a wee snifter...
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