Disorganised Christmas? Like Keano said, fail to prepare, prepare to fail

Hilary Fannin: And don’t come crying to me over your spilt cinnamon milk

‘Being caught empty-handed when someone else presents you with a well-chosen gift is the cardinal sin of Christmas bloopers.’

‘Being caught empty-handed when someone else presents you with a well-chosen gift is the cardinal sin of Christmas bloopers.’

 

Given that there are fewer than 72 shopping hours left until Christmas morning dawns bright and frosty, I thought you might appreciate some last-minute advice on the etiquette of gift-giving. This seasonal transaction, is, one might assume, pretty straightforward: you give, you receive; you receive, you give. Simple. 

What you don’t do is receive, shrug your hairy shoulders and say: “Thanks, mate, I’ll get you back some other time.” That’s not done. That’s not cricket, I mean Christmas. That’s not going to put a smile on Santa’s pinkening choppers or make your Christmas fairy tingle. 

So, assuming that you don’t want to wake up on Monday morning, unstick your beery Christmas Eve locks from your pillow and realise that your festive cupboards are bare, this is the moment to stock up on nick-of-time gifts for unexpected callers. 

Roy Keane's maxim is as applicable at this time of the snow-crust year as it was in Saipan

No? You’d rather spend the remaining hours before kick-off under the fetid sheets or down the local with your well-thumbed Sudoku annual and a couple of has-been reindeers, would you? 

Well, think again. You don’t want to be a disorganised little elf, waking up on yon frosty morn, the echo of sleigh bells still ringing in your pointy ears, and suddenly remembering that you haven’t bought a gift for your doting Auntie Doreen – now do you?! 

That would be the same Auntie Doreen who is currently parking her hatchback outside your gate, ready to totter up the garden path to your cold and pungent house with a Christmas pudding, half a bottle of brandy, a box set of The Riordans and a plastic pack full of giblets for the cat. 

You don’t want to be that curmudgeonly old Scrooge hopping about barefoot on the cold linoleum, twitching the bedroom curtains, with nothing more to give the woman than a bleary season’s greetings and half a rasher sandwich, do you?

Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you. Don’t come crying to me over your spilt cinnamon milk, wishing you had an auld box of Milk Tray to thrust into the poor woman’s liver-spotted paw. 

Preparation, my friend, is key. “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail!” is a Roy Keane maxim as applicable as it was in Saipan as it is at this time of the snow-crust year as it will be in a week or two when you’re mulching up the curly kale for your New Year detox.  

Take it from someone who sits around reading articles about achieving Yuletide perfection with an avid, almost masochistic interest year after frostbitten year (and then utterly ignoring the contents). Being caught empty-handed when someone else presents you with a well-chosen gift is the cardinal sin of Christmas bloopers.

If we really want to give a worthwhile gift to this tired old world, how about just doing Christmas every other year?

“Always have spare gifts in store for that unexpected caller,” say the Xmas etiquette gurus. These Yuletide stormtroopers also offer helpful suggestions as to what these spare gifts might be. Gaily wrapped bottles of home-brewed rhubarb wine are deemed cheery and acceptable, as are home-made tree decorations and airtight boxes of home-baked gingerbread cookies, each sugary soldier iced with a winning smile. In fact, I’ve detected a truly exhausting online trend this year to greet the hordes of pesky unexpected callers who roll up to other people’s doorways over the festive season, like a sea of plastic, with gifts that you’ve lovingly created yourself. 

Somehow, in the midst of stuffing the turkey, looking for the Sellotape, curing other people’s hangovers and unfurling the cocktail sausages from around the cat, we’re supposed to find the time to cook up our own ginseng-infused aphrodisiacal bath bombs or handcraft a couple of necklaces from pecan shells and baby teeth. 

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for having myself an eco little Christmas, I balk at the towering displays of Christmas cracker boxes in the supermarket, and all the horrific non-biodegradable tat therein, but even a couple of pairs of moccasins woven from the moulting pelt of your very own llama ain’t going to save any polar bears. 

I have an idea for the Christmas perfectionists out there, for the bake-yourself-into-befuddlement brigade: if we really want to give a loving and worthwhile gift to this tired old world, how about just doing Christmas every other year? How about it? Even vile, curmudgeonly old bats like me would probably come over all jolly and elfish if there was a decorous 24 months between the tinselled rounds. 

Just imagine: a whole 24 months without a peep out of Westlife’s Christmas back-catalogue. Now there’s a thought to light up my baubles . . .

Enjoy! 

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