The Santa Clause

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I AM beginning to feel it, that rise of panic, the pressure of great expectations, I’m talking Christmas stress.

No doubt many of you will be feeling the same air of anxiety.

It started with the arrival of December 1. Traditionally that is my day for decking the halls with boughs of holly and assembling the Christmas tree. It’s also my usual practice to write my Christmas cards on December 1. We are now into the second week of December and I have none of these things done, the house is in total disarray and needs a darn good seeing to with the Mr Sheen, and I have been laid up with the dreaded lurgy for almost two weeks now. Just doing the school run and putting a dinner on the table each night is about all I can manage. Why did this have to happen now, with the huge list of mummy things to do that awaits most of us females in the run up to Christmas?

No doubt many will have seen the television advert for a certain supermarket chain where the woman single-handedly organizes Christmas while her loving family reap the rewards of her Herculean efforts. There was outcry over this ad when it first aired, it was branded as sexist, yet a poll of Netmums members found it to be their second most favourite Christmas advert, 61 per cent of those surveyed said they thought the ad reflected real life as many mothers tend to do most of the preparation for Christmas. It made me laugh out loud when I watched it as it reminded me of myself, my sister and my mother, we all assumed this frantic perfection-seeking persona over the years. Personally I don’t know of any family in my own circle of family and friends where a male does all the cleaning, present buying, wrapping, card writing and cooking for their family at Christmas, though no doubt these men exist.

According to a Post Office survey, Christmas stress officially kicks in as early as 12 November, a quarter of us will start our hunt for the perfect gifts then. The top Christmas worries are: choosing the right gift for loved ones, how much it will all cost, deciding where to spend Christmas Day and fear of causing offence when deciding who to invite for dinner.

Most people suffer from stress at Christmas more than any other time of the year. Look at any magazine and women are bombarded with images of the ’perfect’ Christmas, suggestions of what we should be wearing at those festive parties, what we should serve and what gifts we should buy are foisted upon us. One magazine article gave (in my opinion) daft advice for being ready for anything Christmas throws at you. The recommendations included keeping frozen peas ready to whip up a tasty pea soup for unexpected visitors, having a stash of back up gifts like bottles of balsamic vinegar to give out to unannounced callers and if you run out of wrapping paper simply photocopy dictionary pages with meaningful words like love, family and happiness, wrap your gift it that and tie it with something fun like a child’s skipping rope rather than bows. Can you imagine the response your unfortunate guest would give if someone asked how their visit to your house went?

Their reply might go something like this: ‘Well it was all a bit odd really, she gave me a bottle of vinegar wrapped in dictionary pages, tied up with a skipping rope and made me eat pea soup. Poor woman, Christmas stress is obviously getting to her!’

Stress can get to us very easily at Christmas; in fact Oxford University researchers found that we can get so wound up in the lead up to Yuletide that overly cheerful stores can actually drive away customers. Experts say that stressed shoppers worrying about presents to buy and preparations to make can be turned off by shops with too much Christmas spirit, colourful decorations, overly exuberant assistants and Christmas tunes blasting out can make terse shoppers feel worse and less willing to purchase. Wow, that’s depressing research, perhaps stores should employ Eeorye styled shop assistants instead and have tumbleweed blowing through the shop intermittently? Can we really be such a nation of Grinchs at Christmas?

Personally I’ve at least had a little fun with my Christmas shopping. Hoping not to have to cook a Christmas dinner (I’ve felt undue stress cooking since a relative told me over the advocaat one year that my dinner was ’disastrous’) I headed off to a site called Firebox.com. I had heard they were selling Christmas dinner in a can. I kid you not! In just 12 minutes the self heating can (no need to use an oven or microwave) presents you with a turkey dinner. Unfortunately due to popular demand they were completely sold out, so I’m afraid my guests will have to endure my disastrous culinary skills yet again but I did get some unique gifts for my loved ones on this site including underwater disco lights (bathing will never be boring again) a Dr Who sonic screwdriver, an electronic drum machine T-Shirt and a pair of Bluetooth gloves that you can actually talk into, what more could you want?

I’ve sorted my gifts online and didn’t have to leave the house, therefore totally avoiding being offended by far too much in-store cheer.

Experts advise to have a less stressful Christmas you should; lower your expectations, make a budget and stick to it, don’t try to do everything yourself and take a little me-time out from the festivities.

Why not make a mental contract with yourself that you are going to have some fun this Christmas? Organize a few treats for yourself this year and delegate some of the work, think of your pact with yourself as your Santa Clause and stick to it. It’s your Christmas too ladies, enjoy!