Claire King


An Early Present

Posted on: October 9th, 2018 by Claire - No Comments

It’s about the time of year people start worrying about Christmas.

I know! I know it’s too early to talk about Christmas but it’s not too early to *think* about Christmas, apparently. And start worrying. And panic buying sprouts. And ham.

Some people love Christmas and approach it with an enviable joy. I’m less enthusiastic, usually because I feel the weight of other people’s expectations and approach it with a mounting sense of overwhelm. When you barely have enough hours in the day as it is, and work hard to balance the family finances year round, it can be hard to embrace the requirement to lay on 18 hours of pure unadulterated joy and excitement for those you love most, including a meal that can take hours for (someone) to cook and buying and wrapping gifts on behalf of other people because they don’t know what to get for (your spouse/your kids/their mum etc).

I’m honestly not grinchy, it’s just that personally, my favourite winter celebration is the solstice. I love a decorated tree, a boozy home made cake, a festive walk in the woods, a Boxing Day spent entirely in pyjamas. Boxing day is traditionally my favourite day of all…but I recently realised that was because it’s the day that the pressure to deliver is finally off.

Brussels Sprouts

Last year, on Boxing Day, from the sofa in my pyjamas, I posted this tweet. I wanted to run a quick Christmas debrief and get hot takes that would be good to look back on as we start getting wound up again in 2018. To save you going through the thread, I have summarised the replies below. It’s like an early present from me to you, to remind us all that the most important things don’t involve much hassle at all.

1) What was the thing you worried about running up to Christmas that wasn’t worth the worry?

  • How the kids would react to a very frugal Christmas in comparison to Christmas’ past (Actually more enjoyable & heartwarming: my 16yo declared his best ever).
  • That I would feel sad on my own (I didn’t at all, it was great).
  • Family phoning me on Christmas Day. Yep, I realise that sounds strange. (Yep. Hurrah for WhatsApp cos they all messaged rather than phoning. They didn’t really understand why I wanted to be on my own.)
  • The journey to and from my parents’ house. (Drive/ferry/drive.) The journey to wasn’t worth worrying about – journey back won’t be either, and yet I am worrying.
  • Older son not being with us on Christmas Day. In the end, younger son made it such a brilliant day and older son phoned twice 🙂
  • Buying for my mother.
  • Seating everyone around a table (solved by buying some Ikea Frosta stools at £9 each)
  • Which invite to accept.
  • That the sitting room/ dining room would be too small for 10 – it flexed beautifully.
  • Getting work finished. I didn’t. Everyone went on holiday anyway.

2) What was the food you bought too much of?

  • Ham. I under-hammed last year and kept panic buying hams this year. Total: 8kg of ham for six people.
  • Stollen. But I managed to eat it all (by myself).
  • Bread. We don’t eat bread at Christmas.
  • Amaretti biscuits (for a dessert I didn’t have time to make)
  • Parsnips!
  • Sprouts. I love em, everyone else hates em.
  • Another vote for Sprouts
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Sprouts!
  • Cheese. But I’ll happily eat it for days.
  • Whiskey.
  • Pigs in blankets. Turns out no one but me likes them.
  • Oh god. Salami and chorizo, but only because my family don’t hold truck.

3) What was the best gift you gave or received?

  • Gave: an emergency camping bag for getting stuck unexpectedly overnight. Received: Boston College tracksuit pants (though really a delayed bday gift).
  • Honestly, and cornily, it’s been the being here and being able to deal with chores for my parents that have needed doing. It’s made more of a difference for all of us than the nice wrapped things. Also a fitbit.
  • The promise of action, doing something rather than gifting items… best response that I’ve popped OH on Allotment waiting list
  • Everything I had was wonderful – unexpected, useful/fun or both. best thing I gave – a voucher for a wedding waistcoat 🙂
  • School bell to my daughter to call the next generation to meals! Received an internal handbag organiser – we shall see how that goes!!!
  • Books! And book tokens!
  • Stereo/headphones for No.1 child. Loves music.
  • Daughter 3 bought me 3 drawings lessons, to take whenever I want.
  • Surprised my husband with the wireless headphones he’s wanted for ages. Normally he doesn’t get anything exciting, & he was so chuffed. Pure deserved for his constant support.
  • Hamilton CD to my OS. He’s over the moon and has been educating me all about it.
  • V loves her camera.
  • Board games
4) What will you do differently for Xmas 2018 (if you remember)?
  • Try not to be sick for a fortnight!
  • Buy less ham.
  • Focus more on helping others. I did a bit this year but barely scratched the surface.
  • Press my mother in law to plan much earlier. Her indecision was very stressful for me.
  • Not come home. Woohoo!
  • Go for a walk on the beach, whatever the weather.
  • Bring more hair bobbles.
  • Send less cards.
  • Nothing, had a great day
  • Nurture the giving time /effort ethos… where possible handmake more presents
  • Nothing! There’s always something, and it doesn’t matter anyway! So long as family are around thats all that matters.
  • Buy the presents for children in November – otherwise all good!
  • Stop stressing about it!
5) What did you do this year that made Xmas/the holidays a good experience?
  • No turkey roast – we did a ‘Spanish’ Christmas: OH cooked a paella for 16 in a huge paella pan we bought years ago in Spain, & I cooked Nigella’s moist lemon & almond cake & flan de casa. Much less washing up.
  • Trimmed down the dinner – it’s only a roast innit? 3 veg, 2 were roasted. Bought frozen Yorkshire puddings too, & concentrated on making the most excellent gravy. Had much more time with my family & less with the kitchen.
  • Me and worked like a machine to manage 4yo excitement and expectations.
  • Brought my partner along for the week – he’s been a star.
  • Chilled out and didn’t over do it!
  • Relaxed with those I love.
  • Helped out at a homeless charity locally. Next year I will take my sons to help too.
  • Less is more… reduce expectations & itinerary, relax & just go with the flow
  • Family coming together – extending table to a near neighbour ‘home alone’ keeping turkey under 10kg – board games – warm hearth and warmed hearts
  • Put my favourite bauble on the tree. Hippo/horse/pig thing in black boots and a fluffy tutu. Everyone tries to hide it, and I always find it. 🙂
  • Spent it alone! Also changed what I was going to do today because I could, which was a bit of a revelation tbh.
  • Thanked everyone for what they did.

Hope you all have a stress-free autumn. Go easy on the sprouts.

Piglet in red Boots

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