tHeadlines about sky-high heating bills and daily news of restaurant closings, the Christmas juggernaut roared, tolling its merry horn. In the land of uncertainty, here comes one sure thing: December and all its excess. Let’s be honest: Christmas is All about “a lot”. Her faux charm springs to life in abundance, in refrigerators that groan and in hands sore from carrying shopping bags. What bodes more for little baby Jesus than a vast Christmas log full of butter and smothered in ganache made stale over Twixtams, when the first agonies about overspending began? Generally, this is when you find that a guest has forgotten to take away the £20 set of bath cubes you bought at the Christmas party. You resented paying for it at the time, and they forgot you gave it to them. Happy bloody birthday.
But this year, I swear, things will be different. “Don’t buy me any gifts—I don’t need them. I just want to see you,” I tell my loved ones in October, hoping to save them from New Year’s debt, and our planet from choking on more plastic. I sounded like the Puritan Lady Whiteadder of Blackadder: “In our house, Nathaniel sits high… I sit in Nathaniel. Two heights will be extravagant!” Nobody thanks you. And we, as a country, are too wedded to waste, to swap jackets too small and too scratchy, hand creams that smell like fox urine and three-jar Dijon mustard kits, each more abrasive and inedible than the last.
Any attempt to curtail this gift seems miserable and ungrateful, and I feel ashamed now about the way our old Grant in the ’90s bashed us when she told us not to buy her anything that year. She’s worked her way through two world wars, wasn’t one for ostentation, extravagance, or retail therapy, and certainly didn’t want any more lavender talcum powder; She especially disliked the expensive wrapping paper that went into the trash. But all the economics she’s done is provide our family with the phrase, “No gifts for me! I’ll just stare at this wall and listen to this Perry Como bar!” We’d advise, then buy her more chocolate-covered macadamias anyway.
Now here I am in the year 2022, and I’m sorry, Gran: You had an idea of the bunch of trifles and profiteroles towers that started popping up in our house in the mid-1980s to supply family members who “didn’t fancy Christmas candy.” In the late 1900s, like many families, we essentially had a “sweets section,” with a different pudding for each of us lined up along Formica like a fondant plate. Gran had not seen the cheerfulness in the supermarket aisle on Christmas Eve at a discount, by which the Dents were bringing home eight pints of milk and a whole wheel of wensleydale with cranberries, only to store them in the garden shed for the next week because the fridge was already full of the special apricot filling.
Somewhere along the way, “too much” became the whole point of Christmas. And like me this year, you’d probably prefer the money to go somewhere useful; For charities, say, or a really useful but boring gift (“Happy Birthday! I paid for your annual Microsoft 365 subscription!”) or maybe you’d rather get the money you wasted on snowboarding tickets than just, well, overindulgence in Maintain radiators from January to April. luxury. luxury.
Don’t even get me started on these festive ice rinks: £20 a head for skating Moves Like Jagger on a half-melted slushie next to a shopping centre, plus another £7 for a ‘fancy’ hot chocolate. I’m doing it this year, as well as trips to a winter wonderland with foam-blowing snow machines and the same ghost houses they had in the summer, just with some decorations around the “pay here” booths.
So, over the past few weeks, I’ve made my non-negotiable Christmas list: After Eats, Stuffing Balls, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, Ferrero Rocher, the Christmas special The Good Life and Carols from King’s on BBC Two. The gift I want is a donation to my favorite charity. Tradition, though, stuck me to the shredder. wine taught? Nobody likes it anyway, and after one glass you have a headache and a mouth like a vampire. truffle oil? Feet tastes. Turkey chops, desserts, pies, and wine? I don’t save money by ridding the supermarket of anything with a yellow label on it; I was just swayed by consumerism, allowing them to exploit my jerky feelings to right a stock-buying mistake. I also ban any food items Heston designed that look as if he thought about it while eating magic mushrooms. Matty, no one needs three cheeseburger pancakes with pears and figs.
I also say no to electronic games. Connect 4 and KerPlunk will suffice (although I’d enjoy Bananagrams if we decided to get fancy). What were Dents thinking in 2005 when we bought a PlayStation 2, Guitar Hero, accompanying drum set, and guitar in order to spend the Christmas Lord mastering Obstacle 1 from Interpol? We fail, and then the whole shebang is shoved into the loft along with other ghosts of Christmas: the rowing machine, the foot spa, and the folding snooker table; There also went my six-foot Argos Christmas tree with lights attached, which I bought in 2009 without realizing that the pulsating neon screen would make us feel like we were on stage with the Chemical Brothers at Glastonbury.
All of this must stop. Like my grandmother, I just want to see people. I want the freshness of the clean house in which I cleaned and cleaned of dust, the flicker of my somewhat dreary little tree. I want some Christmas cards on the string along the wall and 2,000 Miles by The Pretenders playing on Radio 2 while I peel potatoes and layer dreams on a boxed-up flying trifle, which my family always eats, while a salted caramel pickles the tower just before it’s over. It’s in the trash.
I want the humiliation of being spanked by my little brother in Trivial Pursuit and his annual birthday reminder that I went to college and he didn’t. I want a turkey big enough for a main meal and a couple of sandwiches, and then let’s not think about turkey again until next year. I want enough, not too much, and to have it with the people I love. I want a little bit of a winter wonderland and more “I love you all, but winter is coming.” I want peace and goodwill this Christmas, but I’ll settle for Jenga and Quality Street.