Embrace the Christmas Chaos

By Charlie Smith-Knight


Season’s greetings! I am back, mulled wine in hand, to dispense some more unsolicited life advice and to tell you to take the pressure off this holiday season. Whilst the media rams the idea of a perfectly executed Christmas down our necks like we are foie gras geese, I am here to say ‘No! Stop in the name of sanity!’ Consider me your fairy godmother, come to dispel these commercially enforced ideals and tell you that this festive period, you should just bibbidi-bobbidi-do you!

In the interest of full disclosure, I am exactly the sort of person who has a wooden spatula in the door pocket of her car because I have never invested in a windscreen scraper. I think Mrs Hinch should stop being worshipped as a false God of the 50 shades of blandness. And I have never cooked a meal for more than two people that didn’t consist entirely of frozen pizzas, sometimes served still partially frozen. What I am trying to say is, I think it’s ok to embrace some of the chaos. Healthy even. Like Yakult. Imperfection is the ‘good bacteria’ of life experiences, and I think we could all use a dose of it.

First off, we don’t all live at Pickle Cottage. Festooning your front door with several different seasonal squashes, giant baubles and an 8ft gonk, is quite frankly unnecessary. Your house does not need to look like a grotto decorated by children who’ve dodged their Ritalin to be considered festive. In those splendid pre-social media days, when we cared less about what everyone else thought, some tinsel and a few fire hazard foil decorations strung from the ceiling were enough. Our family tree was decorated with many a school-borne artistic endeavour. I think my mum even nested the questionable clay ocarina I produced, amongst the toilet roll Santas and lolly stick snowflakes. To this day (and at my insistence) she will hang a wise man made from a bed sheet sprayed gold on her dining room wall. Are they classy decorations? No. Will the neighbours be jealous? Also no. But do we still enjoy Christmas? Absolutely. Decorate for you, not the ‘gram. There are 12 days of Christmas and none of them involve scraping rotten gourd off the porch.

Christmas dinner is overrated. Yeah, I said what I said. There is no other time of the year, that we insist on eating 15 different types of vegetables in one sitting, on top of the meat content of Henry VIII’s daily diet, followed by a parade of puddings, one of which we inexplicably set on fire. Making dinner shouldn’t have to start several days before you plan on eating it and require the organisational underpinning of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Ask yourself, do you even like it? I’m all for tradition but I also think Christmas is supposed to be a day of joy and maybe there are better options than the perverse lunacy that is a three-bird roast. Scale it down, have a Chinese, make one huge charcuterie board. Just please yourselves. You don’t need more elements than the London Symphony Orchestra and you’ll only forget that you put the peas in the microwave anyway.

Have you seen the film Jingle All the Way? There isn’t a present on Earth worth that kind of stressful, panic-inducing ordeal. Christmas shopping would easily be more fun if there wasn’t 1000 other people doing it at the same time. Of course, there is pressure to get the kids ‘the’ toy of the season but let me give you an outsider’s perspective. I am a frequent visitor in other people’s family homes – don’t worry, only ever on invitation – and as much as kids like presents, that isn’t all the magic of Christmas. My sisters’ have cultivated warm, slightly unhinged homes, where there is always some noise and invariably laughter and love. Maybe someone gets kicked in the shins after one too many lemonades occasionally. It’s not all about crowding round a piano, cradling hot chocolate and singing Let it snow. The real magic lies in being together, somewhere safe and possibly with the kids wrestled into matching pajamas. I promise you, you are doing enough, new iPhone or not.

Lastly, if Christmas is not the one this year, that’s ok too. Last year I was having chemo, the year before that my glorious Nan passed away on Dec 23rd. Sometimes Christmas comes when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year. Fair enough. Just be honest with the people around you and take the space your social battery needs. If you want to spend Christmas in a dressing gown, eating the contents of a family sized tub of Quality Street then you do you, hun.

However you spend it, spend it well… and on your terms. I shall be getting redirected away from the kitchen, like I’m on a replacement bus service and probably arm wrestling a child at the dinner table. Merry Christmas! Also please don’t write in about the wooden spatula scratching my car windscreen. My husband has emphatically reinforced this point… and yet, here we are.