Advent is not giving me the warm fuzzy feeling I crave. In fact, I’m getting quite snappy at the idea of Christmas approaching, and am beginning to think I’ll be glad when it’s over. Oh dear, is this me? I’m actually wishing I could go off on my own on a retreat, far away from everyday life, where my snappiness doesn’t affect anyone else.
A friend has just written to tell me he is going to spend Christmas and Hogmanay in a fairytale castle in Pitlochry, which looks stupendous: he will be able to hire a bike, play golf, go fishing and all the other healthy sports rich men enjoy, and come back to five-star comfort and excellent food. I’m sure he will have a great time, and being Scottish will don his kilt and join in the Gay Gordons, Dashing White Sergeant and Eightsome Reel. My reaction is – nothing. I’m not envious, and even though I could join him I am glad I have every excuse not to. Is that normal?
It has become a cliché: I am tired of the over-commercialisation of Christmas. I have now reached the point where I don’t want to have to exchange cards and presents just because it’s traditional to do so.
Over the last ten years, I have reduced expenditure on Christmas cards by at least half. I began by making my own, which was very time-consuming, and my labours of love were probably not appreciated by their recipients who put me down as a cheap-skate recycling cards from previous years. The postage came to a hefty amount, as I was in Switzerland and most of my card-receiving friends in other countries. So then I dispensed with cards and simply sent an annual illustrated letter, individualising my round-robin, which also took a lot of time and printer ink, and still cost as much postage as the cards had done.
A few years ago, I announced that I wasn’t sending any cards but would make a donation to charity, so only those with e-mail got Christmas greetings from me. This led to inquiries from those without e-mail as to whether I was all right, or if something bad had happened. So my solution for the past couple of years has been to send e-mail or facebook greetings to as many as I can, and the cheapest possible charity cards to the rest. I still make other donations to charities, naturally.
However, in the last couple of years I have had to add my mother’s list to my own since her hand had become too shaky for her to write more than about 3 a day. Three years ago, this list was a hundred-strong. Some of those have since passed on, others coincide with my own list, but the catch here is that if people don’t get a card from her, they will assume that my mother has died, so a Christmas card is a sign of life. So even with e-mail greetings, I will still be writing and posting at least 50 cards. Well, I suppose the Royal Mail is rapidly also becoming a charity 🙂
As for Christmas presents, which are an even more essential part of the season, I am also very close to giving up. I have agreed with my immediate family who are all in Switzerland, that it is pointless mailing presents to them when the postage exceeds the value of the gift and it turns out to be something they neither want nor need anyway. The family here will probably give us token gifts, so I need to get them something in return. That is not the best motive, and certainly not in the true spirit of Christmas. At one time, I might have made something nice – and there are still a couple of neighbours who will get homemade Christmas cakes from me. Alas, I no longer have the eyesight for painting or embroidery, and I don’t knit. Neither do I have sufficient energy. So I shall have to buy things. Oh the horror of Christmas shopping! How many times in past years have I trailed around shops, looking for just the right present for X or Y, and finally having to compromise on something nobody really likes or wants. Or buying my cousin once again exactly the same Swatch I had given her the previous year.
This year in England I have a different dilemma: I have no transport, and don’t like to leave my mother alone for more than an hour at the most in case she trips or has an accident. That means I can only get to the local shops. We have 3 convenience stores, a newsagent/post office, 2 chemist’s, a florist’s, a computer specialist, a Polski Smak, and a baker’s. That doesn’t offer a great range of Christmas gifts, so if you are expecting one from me be prepared for a box of chocolates, a tin of biscuits or a bag of toiletries! Maybe a potted plant. Nothing imaginative, I’m afraid. I did consider shopping online, but there I have the opposite problem; the choice is so vast that I am overwhelmed and can’t decide.
Finally, though, a breakthrough! Of all the people in the world, it looks as if the milkman might be the Superman to save me from my present-related plight. This morning, he has left me a brochure reminding me that he can also deliver loads of other stuff, from eggs and potatoes to Christmas puddings and gammon joints. Boxes of chocolates, tins of biscuits and bottles of interesting non-alcoholic drinks also feature! Delivered right to the doorstep: I wonder if he’ll be wearing a red suit and white beard? And will the milk float be pulled by reindeer?