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I'm the Grinch who fakes her way through Christmas

Peyton, Colorado, USA - December 14, 2014: A square format studio shot of a Dr. Seuss Grinch Christmas ornament in an opened gift box. The box sits in front of a defocused Christmas tree.
Peyton, Colorado, USA - December 14, 2014: A square format studio shot of a Dr. Seuss Grinch Christmas ornament in an opened gift box. The box sits in front of a defocused Christmas tree.

There are people who are just brilliant at Christmas.

They can hardly contain themselves throughout November, desperate to get going with the decorations and get that jumper on. They manage to embrace all of it, the shopping, the cooking while humming along to Wizzard.

Frankly I’m in awe.

If that’s you and you’ve had your tree up by December 1, this month’s column might not be for you. You’re excused and free to skip forward to the property section. We’ll see you next time I hope.

That just leaves the rest of us, feeling just a bit Grinchy and worried. There’s a story that seems to appear in our newspapers annually: the appalling ‘Winter Wonderland’ which is more a soggy muddy field with a depressed donkey, weeping children with an angry Bad Santa type. That’s my metaphor for Christmas. Lots of hope and promise but essentially expensive and leaves you exhausted and with disappointed children.

Truth of the matter is that Christmas inspires, for some, a mix of irritation, sadness, stress and guilt. That’s a pretty toxic mix right there and we haven’t even had that side helping of hangover anxiety or ‘hangaxiety’ as it’s known. Hangaxiety is that paranoid feeling you get the morning after the night before. It’s the scourge of the Christmas season and it doesn’t exactly set a festive tone. There’s no worse feeling to have when you contemplate how much shopping you have left to do and you’re feeling the pressure of putting on a perfect day for your children.

The pressure is real because the stakes are high. We love our children but they are set to reach levels of excitement matched only by X Factor contenders hearing “you’ve got four yesses” .

We don’t want to let them down and this year, more than ever, we deserve some fun. So I’ve been giving some thought to how I’m going be a bit less Grinch and bit more Christmas.

I’m going adopt the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ rule. It might come as no surprise but parenting forme is essentially a lot of faking. Like pretending I don’t swear or I’m interested in the intricate details of a Minecraft world. Or pretending that I’m enjoying teaching my four-year-old to ride a bike when in fact I’m in agony bent holding the back wheel. I’ve even pretended that doing anything crafty involving glitter isn’t possible because it gives Daddy asthma.

Now I’m going to add pretending I love Christmas. A friend takes faking it to a new level. Not content with ordinary faking she imagines she’s being watched by Mary Berry. I think she’s onto something. I’d rather be on Instagram drinking wine than doing the online Christmas shop but I’d up my game for Mary Berry. I’d do just about anything to avoid hearing an even imaginary Mary Berry describe my Christmas as “a bold effort, but just not quite executed properly”.

I’m going to ‘KISS’ (and that’s Keep It Simple Stupid and nothing to do with mistletoe). For me that means not buying presents for anyone who isn’t a child. We’re limited with time and money and buying for multiple godchildren, nieces, nephews and in-laws and grown-up siblings feels like a herculean task. Add that long list of present buying to the tyranny of sending your child’s (x3) entire class a Christmas card, school winter party, seeing relatives, visits to Santa’s Grotto and you’re starting to feel the very opposite of festive mirth.

Phone the adults in your life and do a deal not to buy each other anything. While you’re at it you could agree a spending limit on presents for the children. January is bleak enough without feeling broke.

It’s also time to stop kidding myself I’ll only stick to one drink when I go out. I’m going to be surrounded by excited Christmas loving people for starters. This year, instead of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) I’m going to embrace JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) and boxsets. I’ll avoid the dreaded hangaxiety and, even better, having a drink on Christmas Day won’t feel like a chore.

Let tipsy happy mum become my new Christmas tradition. Perhaps I’ll start channelling a bit of Ed Balls too, my 2016 highlight.

The best top tip I was given was to be considerate to future Christmas you. Don’t start traditions with your children you’re not prepared to stick to for the next couple of decades. Elf on a Shelf seems great but finding new inventive places for it every December day for 15 years sounds like a bit of a drag.

Maybe sprinkle some special magic glitter in the house for Christmas Day morning. They’ll absolutely believe that was Father Christmas because they still think Daddy’s allergic to it.

Merry Christmas Grinches. May the festive force be with you. Mary Berry believes in you.

Emilie Silverwood-Cope is the local editor of Cambridge Mumsnet.

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