How are the Christmas preparations going?

I have unresolved messy lights on a potted tree outside my house. Today I bought baubles and hoped they would magically be placed on this tree but when I returned home this evening, they were still in the hall.

I brought my artificial tree – I find an annual cut tree too upsetting to chuck away – in and it sits looking far too small and, as yet, undecorated in the cavernous new sitting room space. Most other decorations are still in our storage locker in Bromley and will have to be retrieved tomorrow.

Have you written your cards yet? Have you sorted out the people in your diary to whom you send cards every year who never send you a card and you shrug and say, “Well, fair enough, they’re just not into Christmas cards,” (maybe you say “They’re just not into me,“) and then you get an unexpected card from them and you’ve deleted them from your contacts so you feel guilty and ashamed?

Maybe, like us, you’ve just got a card from New Zealand and you know full well that, even if you manage to reciprocate, the card you send won’t arrive there until Easter.

If you receive a faceless corporate card from a faceless corporate, do you send one back? Do you send one to each and every one of the people who have signed your picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the snow with robins? I don’t know.

What about the Christmas presents? Have you decided on a plan about who is to give presents to whom of those sitting around your Christmas table? As yet ours still hangs in the air. We seem to have decided that the younger generation will receive presents but as for their parents, well, who knows? Do we give token presents, (knowing full well that peoples’ perceptions of tokens differ widely) or do we decide that we can forego mindless consumerism and give nothing? Apparently, since I’m hosting, it’s my decision. I haven’t come to any conclusions yet and I’m aware that the clock is ticking inexorably towards Christmas day. My decision. My responsibility.

My favoured option is either a Secret Santa deal, which won’t happen because I’d have to organise it, or maybe people bring interesting consumable presents like, I don’t know, an artisan Somerset goat’s cheese or home-picked walnuts or something. Really, that’s not too controversial, is it? Whatever happens, if it goes wrong it will be my responsibility.

What really irks me every year is that I seem to be the one thinking of ideas for other people’s presents. As if I’m not doing everything else. As if some, not all, but some of these people haven’t got all the time in the world to think or shop. Which makes me anxious that one or other of my children will get a crappy present from someone in their own family because I haven’t stepped in to sort it out. I suppose I should be grateful that I’m not doing the internet shopping on behalf of too many other people this year, as I have before.

It’s all very stressful, isn’t it, and it’s the same way every year. Stop the madness, I say. Do your cards in July and if you fall out with someone in November, just don’t post their card. Refuse to get involved with the presents and then the givers will just have to use their damn brains themselves. Set an alarm to make your pudding or cake (I am set to make my Christmas cake tomorrow – watch this space for more of that.)

We all say it but we never do it.

As I write this, it feels so ungracious. At least we can have a Christmas unlike all those people whose lives have been ripped apart by homelessness and war or broken relationships or illness or loneliness. Maybe we should be grateful just to be able to muddle through.