Christmas really starts Christmas Eve night, when we traipse around the corner to the local church for the annual Carol service. Going to church isn't a regular feature in my annual calendar, but I do make the effort on this day. My family get on well with the local Minister who we've got to know through our children who attend weekly toddler groups and youth clubs. I don't think there's a better way to feel 'Christmassy' than to attend a church where the true message of Christmas is reiterated, and I like a few Christmas carols.
But I have to admit, I'm not really feeling the whole 'Christmas Spirit' thing this year. Maybe it's because I'm another year older, or it could be because I'm still feeling the financial pinch from having to spend money on my car, which broke down the other week; perhaps I'm a little fatigued from working so hard on writing, editing and promoting three books - all around the same time. Or, it could be, that my kittens have ruined the Christmas tree by frequently climbing it despite my verbal remonstrations and the use of a water gun. I don't know. It could be all those reasons. It's not that I haven't tried to get in the mood; I've been watching Christmas movies for a couple of week now (which is part of the tradition my wife and I do every year), starting off with Die Hard, and progressing through Gremlins, Love Actually, The Holiday, Home Alone 1 & 2, and with the kids every children's Christmas movie ever made.
I started my Christmas shopping in October, buying most of the presents by end of November, and all but the fresh and perishable food was purchased during the first week of December. And alcohol... I've got enough wine to last me next year. So, by and large, I am ready for the big day. I've even tried to use the Christmas market to promote and sell my book, running an animated video ad across multiple social media platforms and issuing a daily fun fact or quiz with a sponsored link to my website to try and increase sales. Perhaps it's because I've been thinking - and over-thinking! - Christmas for so long now, that I'm just bored of the notion. Add to this the relentless advertising by Supermarkets and Argos since the end of September, it's probably no real surprise.
I think another thing causing me apathy this year was seeing the Christmas TV listings at the beginning of December. Trawling through each channel's schedule is akin to reading an obituary, I macabrely search for a name I might know, my eyes scanning over old shows and annual repeats, seeking something to stand out, to pique my interest. After about eight minutes (and I took my time), I came to January 2nd with only a handful of things worth watching - and most of them are aimed at kids (Stickman, Fungus the Bogeyman). There's only so many times I can really laugh at a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special, even if they do show a different one from the last year (they produced one every year from 1969 to 1983 with the exception of 1974 - they gave it a miss that year to celebrate the birth of yours truly!) I think the only show I'm really looking forward to isn't on until New Years' Day, and that is Sherlock on BBC1.
But, maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Perhaps, unlike other years where I've really looked forward to Christmas, building it up to be something great only to feel a total anti-climax when the day actually arrives, this year will turn out to be different, maybe even great. After all, I've had a pretty amazing year so-far.
With just tomorrow to go, I hope so. But, even if I do fail to engage this year with the whole Christmas malarkey, I'll still do my best to make it great, just for the kids. Santa will arrive, as he does, during the early hours of Christmas morning, and there will be a few surprises wrapped and placed beneath the Christmas tree. I'll enjoy a few beers throughout the festive season (not too many!), and over-indulge on the savoury snacks, the nuts, the chocolates and Xmas pudding which I just can't say no to. I'll spend a good deal of my time (when not in the kitchen) unpacking toys, putting toys together and then having to play with the toys (with my children), and no doubt having to re-do this a hundred or more times over as they seem to grow bored quicker with the said toys than it takes to open them.
And before you know it, it's all over and we're ringing in the New Year... another anti-climatic event in my calendar.
Happy Christmas everybody!
Serves 8-10 people
You can, if you wish, cover the cake with marzipan and white icing... but personally I find this makes the cake too sweet.