When ‘happy Christmas’ is an order, not a salutation
Guest psychologists on radio at this time of year tell us to lower our expectations of Christmas. They’re right, of course
Stupefied by Michael Bublé, who was dreaming of a white Christmas on an unnecessarily cruel permanent loop, I found myself marooned in a supermarket aisle yesterday, glaring at Santa’s cherubic countenance on a box of assorted rot and thinking: good God, how did it get to be mid-December already?
I’m barely over the shock of encountering my pasty thighs pockmarked with sunburn (it was a lovely summer, if you remember) and, hey presto, choirs of angels are bleating on about goodwill and gourmet mustard. All of a sudden, we’re talking turkey again.
Yep, we’re off, retracing our steps, one hurried stride at a time, all the way to twinkling Christmasville. Once again we’re limping down merry old main street in our party shoes, bobbing about on a sea of goose fat and good tidings, skating towards another new year on the thin ice of season’s greetings.
That phrase “happy Christmas”: sometimes I read it on cards and billboards, and wonder whether it’s a salutation or an ultimatum.
My favourite part of the lead-up to Christmas is the presence of guest psychologists on radio programmes. I just love listening to those dulcet rationalists who try to talk us down from the dizzying heights of hysteria we seem to scale at this time of year.
Not everything is going to be perfect, they say. Lower your expectations, they gently implore. Inject a bit of realism into the giblet gravy. Hell, they say, just because fake snow is falling in the TV ads, and your neighbours have plastic reindeer antlers growing out of the windows of the family saloon, doesn’t mean that you’re going to have a textbook Christmas.
They’re right, of course. It’s probably time to face the fact that bearded Auntie Mona is never going to like your Christmas pudding or your husband, despite that bed jacket you bought her on Ebay. And it’s more than probable that your pungent teenagers are not going to appear fragrant and gleaming around the breakfast table on Christmas morning, swathed in tartan pyjamas and seasonal benevolence.
I particularly liked the softly spoken guru on national radio last weekend who was invited into studio to counsel the nation on the etiquette of the office Christmas party. The lady in question suggested wearing something sensible to the event (chain-mail culottes and a polo neck, perhaps?) and limiting one’s alcohol intake (oh, how many times have I regretted ignoring that advice).
She also advised that one should invent an urgent appointment that you just have to dash off to before your boss puts his tongue in your ear or you find yourself under the desk with the area sales rep. Lie, in other words, which is possibly not in keeping with the spirit of the season. This is sensible advice, which is bound to fall on ears deafened by sleigh bells and clinking glasses of warm Chardonnay.