Christmas Boot Camp Has begun - Oddetorium

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Saturday, 3 December 2011

Christmas Boot Camp Has begun


Christmas Boot Camp Has begun

 Listen up everyone: there are just 24 days left until Christmas. That’s right, 24. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready. Well, I’ve got a plan at least. I’ve written to-do lists. I’ve put daily reminders on our chaotic calendar. There’s even a sticker chart. 

The whole family has been briefed, right down to the dog (who’ll reluctantly be wearing a Santa hat for pictures) and baby Mabel (whose impressive thighs will be squeezed into the hand-me-down reindeer tights).  It’s the first day of December and we’re all enrolled in festive boot camp. Our motto? Christmas: Bring. It. On. (to borrow a phrase from The X Factor). And for once I reckon I can handle it.


‘Oh no, you can’t,’ I hear those of you of a pantomime persuasion muttering. Oh yes I can, because let me tell you there’s no way Christmas is going to sneak up on me again, bringing me out in a cold, sweaty panic that lasts as long as my Boxing Day hangover. This year you won’t find me writing cards on the bus to work on December 23; you won’t witness my sprint up the High Street for wrapping paper on Christmas Eve.
I will not miscalculate the size of the turkey and get one so big we have to saw it in half to get it into the oven (ditto the tree). I will not try to persuade the queue at Marks & Spencer to sell me their advent calendars. I won’t be wrapping presents with the help of a stapler at midnight because I’ve run out of sticky tape. Oh no, this year I’m not spending the next 24 days with a sense of guilt over all the things I haven’t had time to buy, wrap, post or cook. The children wrote their Christmas letters to the ‘red man’ in mid-November (I had to rewrite Gracie-in-the-middle’s, which started ‘Dear Satan’ and included ‘stuff that explodes’); I’ve booked a supermarket delivery slot; set up an Amazon account; prised pressie ideas out of relatives in advance; and downloaded the free Xmas clock countdown app on my mobile phone. I’ve not gone as far as my great aunt, who used to buy Christmas cards and gifts in the January sales, but I’m channelling my inner Kirstie Allsopp.  Mark my words, by day 19 I’ll be on that sofa, in the glow of the fairy lights, with my feet up watching a Morecambe & Wise Christmas special, brushing mince pie crumbs off the top of baby Mabel’s head. I’ve been doing family Christmases for nine years (since the first of our four children was born) and love every frosted minute of it  — the fantasy and the reality. A good Christmas is the ultimate celebration of a close family. It trumps birthdays, weddings and holidays. The ‘last Rolo’ of family life. And it is, of course, the chance to be the matriarchal hero, hopefully basking in the glory of smiles all round (Yes, I know dads are for Christmas, too, but when did you ever see a man running  up and down a supermarket aisle at closing time looking for the last Terry’s Chocolate Oranges for the stockings?).

Rightly or wrongly, Christmas is traditionally a woman’s job. When you leave hospital after giving birth, you should get a note from Father Christmas along with those free nappies. ‘Dear new mum: there’s good news and bad news. The good news is you won’t be wearing trousers the same size as mine for ever and the bad news is you’re now in charge of Christmas. Love Santa.’ As the children grow up and you start comparing the more stressful elements of motherhood to the bushtucker trials in I’m A Celebrity, you find Christmas is the toughest test of them all (the equivalent of having to eat a kangaroo’s bottom while a  cockroach crawls up your nose). So you deserve those smiles because organising Christmas is fraught with endless details to remember and involves every other member of the family. There’s a ridiculous time limit, stressful financial constraints and huge expectations of harmony and happiness. On top of that there’s the responsibility of creating the magical moments that form the foundation of childhood.

Nothing marks the passing of family life more acutely than the precious Christmas traditions you create, melancholy reminders that you’re passing through one stage of life into the next. Every year when we get the box of tree decorations out of the loft, I sit tearfully touching the fading angels the children made at nursery as the last few sequins fall off, repeating the mantra ‘Every second counts’ silently to myself. It’s all about the memories, isn’t it? This is why we strive so hard to get it right. So for this one, our last baby’s first Christmas, we’re sticking to the plan. Our Christmas won’t be as perfect as the John Lewis advert, but I’m making sure it’s as close as we’re ever going to get.

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