Thursday, 10 December 2015

Why Is Christmas So Fancy These Days?

I absolutely loved Christmas as a child and I am keen to recreate the same level of magic and excitement for my boys. Yet as I begin to feel Christmassy, I can't help but wonder whether expectations are being set slightly too high nowadays. And I don't mean the expectations of our kids, I mean the expectations we set for ourselves.

I blame the internet. And the telly. A quick browse of Facebook and a watch of the adverts between Emmerdale and Corrie tells me that Christmas prep is no longer just about buying presents, stockpiling alcohol, decorating the tree and choosing which bird* to have. HELL NO.

Firstly, it seems there are a million and one 'essential Christmas food' items you need to buy. Like Stollen and Panettone. When did these things become Christmas essentials? I'm not disputing that they are treats traditionally devoured around this time of year but I have quite happily survived three decades of Christmasses without Panefuckingttone. Does nobody whip out the Viennetta anymore?

And actually, the internet suggests we should all be making some Christmas goods too. Christmas cake, Christmas pudding and don't forget the all-important Gingerbread House with intricate icing and jelly sweet detailing. You can buy these things, of course, but people will ask you if you've made one so it might be best to come up with an excuse you're comfortable with (I find 'God no, I can't be arsed with all that shit' gets mixed responses).

I'm already breaking out into sweats about having to make an elaborate sheep onesie when Henry starts school next year, after witnessing parents stressing out on social media about nativity costumes. I was Mary in the nativity play once and I'm pretty sure I wore a bed sheet. Everybody else wore tea towels on their heads. It did the job.

When I was little, I always thought our Christmas tree looked magical. In actual fact, it was probably a bit naf (uneven spread of decorations topped with that god-awful angel hair - does anybody else remember that?) but I can vividly remember standing and looking at the lights with a happy Christmassy glow in my heart. Sadly, a multipack of baubles from BHS and some paper-chains across the ceiling doesn't seem to cut it anymore. Nowadays, I'm told, it's all about hand crocheted decorations, elaborate fairy light displays and sophisticated colour schemes. (I have experienced the frustration of watching a toddler aggressively plonk decorations on the tree, but a quick redistribution to less crowded branches when they are in bed soon fixes that).

My sister and I often got pyjamas for Christmas (always from M&S, "yay, thanks Nan") but we didn't get a special pair delivered to wear on Christmas Eve. We didn't open Christmas Eve boxes with a personalised ceramic plate for Rudolf's carrot nor did we have a Christmas family photo shoot uploaded to Christmas cards.

Early '90s M&S PJs. I've still got that bear.
I'm fairly certain all the Christmas crafts (Father Christmas with his cotton wool beard and all that jazz) were reserved for school or playgroup. These days we're expected to paint reindeer out of baby footprints and, according to an article I read a week or so ago, Christmas origami is a fun activity to engage in with toddlers. Origami with toddlers! I'll just let that sink in.

I wasn't convinced about the Elf on the Shelf until loads of you reported that elves had proved a powerful tool in encouraging good behaviour (this sounds a lot like bribery, which is where I tend to live as a parent - so we got one). He didn't arrive in time for December 1st and instead arrived on December 5th - on paper this is a Christmas parenting disaster, but in reality it didn't matter one bit.

And when it comes to presents, well, I'm never going to be one of those 'all your children need is love' types, because my son has been sleeping with the Smyths toy catalogue so is clearly hoping for more that just my love. But I see no need to go bananas on the gift-buying. A fat OAP in a red suit takes all the credit anyway.

This isn't a dig at households who go The Whole Christmas Hog. I'm just commenting on the pressure to do it all. The way I see it, you should opt in (or opt out) of the things that suit you and your family. The things you enjoy doing. I won't be making gingerbread houses or handmade crackers anytime soon but if I enjoyed baking and crafting then maybe I would.

When Christmas Eve arrives, you should be able to kick back with a glass of wine in front of the Vicar of Dibley, or do some last minute wrapping to NOW That's What I Call Christmas! without having to worry about rustling up another batch of mince pies.

Do Christmas your way. Don't stress out about the small stuff. Remember to buy sellotape, batteries and Prosecco and it will all be fine.

The Unmumsy Mum
[*Apparently people aren't content with eating just one bird anymore, either. These days it's all about having a pigeon inside a chicken inside a dog inside a horse. What the chuff is that all about?]


49 comments:

  1. Could not agree more. Who the frog want to eat a bird in a bird in a sodding bird anyway?

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  2. Hahahaha - a pigeon in a chicken, in a dog, in a horse - sounds like the old lady who ate the fly!! x

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  3. Hallelujah, thank the Lord!! This is exactly what I've been thinking. So much pressure to be an 'amazing parent.' and by the way, we're having Vienetta!! :-))

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  4. I LOVE you and I love this article. Thank you. Here's to a simple, stress free Christmas!

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  5. I was with you until you complained about the multiple-miscellaneous meats - that's the aspect of the expansion of Christmas I enjoy most as an adult.

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  6. Here here! My boys are 9 and 4 now, they don't give a toss about what I have made, as long as they have had fun, can eat sweets and I have a full glass, we are all happy!

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  7. Another stunner!! I am exactly the same although one extra tip - un clip all the toys from the stupid packaging nothing worse than a whining child who cant get the damn thing out the box - Thank you :)

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  8. I gave up when my son ate all his advent calendar on December 2nd and spewed all night! Amen to a stress free Christmas!

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  9. I agree. Low stress is the way. Although I messed that up royally when I went and had a baby on Boxing Day... Now my Christmas Eve is actually birthday cake day. And making sure that 2 days' worth of presents and preparations are good to go, so that I can hopefully enjoy Christmas Day itself!! X

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    1. I was born on Christmas Day - we've always had candles on the Christmas cake, although my mum only puts one on these days! She used to make a proper birthday cake for my party.

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  10. THIS! Thank you! I must be the only mum on my Facebook who hasn't participated in elf on the shelf this year. I felt so bad!

    Having said that, I've wholeheartedly bought into the app where 'Santa' rings to remind kids he's watching and he might put them on the naughty list. That, is ingenious.

    I blame Pinterest for all this madness x

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  11. Bang on! I still haven't bought one present or food item (and I have 3 kids)... Am I panicking? No. It will be done and fun will be had. If the kids want a gingerbread house then I'll go to tesco and buy one. The chocolate log that will adorn the walls Xmas table will be bought. Also from tesco. I'm not slating those who choose to do it, I salute you, but for me and my lot it's about opening presents on Xmas morning, going out for a walk in the woods and eating too much turkey. Prosecco will be opened at 11am and I will be suitably tipsy by 6pm, fall asleep in front of eastenders and then get beaten at trivial persuit by my dad....happy Christmas everyone!!

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  12. My boy will be 4 1/2 months old this Christmas. I started off all rational like, he won't remember a thing, then felt guilty and bought him a few bits (stacking cups that he can throw in anger when they don't do what he wants them to, etc), and I'm now totally over it - gave him one of his presents 2 days ago and plan to wrap it and open it again on xmas day. Far too much pressure to create a magical wonderland when all kids want is he excitement of Santa & a few desired gifts. We haven't even got our sodding tree yet - Merry Christmas!

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  13. Panefuckingttone, my new buzz word. Brilliant blog ��

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  14. It's all a bit commercial these days, isn't it? A bit like what's happened to Halloween, but where the starting bar was set higher to begin with. Everything has to be bigger, better, more personalised, better than what the neighours did. And that's just my presents, never mind the kids'.

    Anyhow, there was an old lady who swallowed a turkey who swallowed a wood pigeon who, no, hang on, that's not right ...

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  15. Elf is a godsend on the bribery front. I'm with you all the way apart from panettone, which is my favourite food (Italian relatives) and seeing as I'm pregnant this year you have to give me that or I will cancel Christmas. I'm just annoyed this is my first year my dad hasn't bought me an advent calendar (I'm 35).

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  16. Love this! Can you add the advent calendar to this rant! I used to have one every year, the exciting bit was seeing which picture was behind the door. Now it's chocolate for breakfast, a sugar rush for kids just off to school, leaving the teacher (me!) to deal with 30 children bouncing off the walls. Oh, not forgetting the Lego™ advent calendars, which deliver a small, sharp, plastic object every day. Perfect for standing on with bare feet and kicking under the sofa!! Bah!Humbug.

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  17. Oh GOD yes. A friend was talking about getting matching PJs for her daughters' Christmas Eve boxes, and I was
    nodding, smiling, and thinking "what the f...?". Bring on the mulled wine and prosecco for me, and the chocolate and presents for the kids... we'll make our own traditions thanks :)

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  18. We had angel hair on the tree, the only problem was that the cat used to eat it and we then had to spend the whole of the Christmas period pulling it out of his backside😄

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    1. I was going to post something very similar about our cat! I presume angel hair is the same as lametta? Mum used to spend ages draping each individual strand lovingly over the branches while we watched, not understanding the point of it all.

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  19. No, I haven't got an elf either and thankfully my kids haven't mentioned it. We have a Santa app too, which is keeping them going. I quite like seeing the pics on FB from my friends who are doing the Elf, but I cannot be bothered with the stress! I can guarantee that if I can't remember to put my wheelie bin out at the kerbside on the right night before I curl up in bed, then I sure as heck can't think of a different, imaginative pose for a blinkin' inconsequential elf before bed!!

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  20. I had those tartan jammies! I remember them well 😂

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  21. ...sellotape, batteries, Prosecco and paracetamol surely

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  22. Now I have to disagree with you on JUST one thing - PJs on Christmas Eve - this is now a tradition at our house but it has very practical reasons: so that pictures of the 3 kids on Xmas morning they look halfway decent in proper pjs, instead of the mismatched-cos-I-can't-find-the-matching-trousers/stained by previous coco pops for breakfast pjs my kids will be rocking for the rest of the year. Don't want Facebook knowing my kids look like little ragamuffins most of the time!

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    1. Hahaha! Very good reason *buys Christmas Eve PJs*

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    2. Haha, I have Christmas morning photos of my two kids wearing old tshirts of mine as I forgot to take the washing out the washer! Terrible "Facebook" photo but great memories

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  23. Pannefuckingttone is the best word I've heard in a long time! I do buy Stollen though - yum yum!

    Elf on the shelf can fuck off, what is with that?!

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  24. my friend said to me today 'are you making your own cranberry sauce' erm.....NO! u can buy it cheaper than you could make it from scratch

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  25. I nearly wet myself laughing at this. I know what you mean about the whole family having new PJ's. What is that about? why for Christmas eve?

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  26. Are you one of my friends? :( I have bought matching pyjamas for my two girls to go in their Christmas Eve boxes. I only buy them pyjamas because my Mum has a collection of photos of me wearing the worst pyjamas every year at Christmas. The small one will point and demand "dat" if I don't get her exactly what her big sister has and frankly I want some hope of them giving me at least 5 minutes of peace and quiet on Christmas Eve.

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  27. I detest the whole concept of Elf on the Shelf. It's a bit Big Brother, isn't it?

    I guess all the adverts for drink are so you can drink and forget just how much you've spent on all the tat you've bought your children based on the insidious pre-Christmas adverts that run from about September onwards. Two years ago we had sweet and sour chicken on Christmas day - why force Christmas dinner on 3 kids who'll only eat a couple of potatoes and nibble on a corner of turkey - and the only Christmas 'tradition' we have is a trip into town so each child can choose their own decoration for the tree each year, with the idea being that when they eventually grow up and leave home they'll have a load of decorations to take with them as well.

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  28. I made handprint cards with my 22 month old. It was an ordeal I wish I hadn't started from the second it began. I blame Pinterest, that website it the work of the devil!

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  29. Prosecco and pannefuckingtonne at breakfast for me! What is the elf on the shelf? Does it work on teenagers? X

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  30. We have the elf on the shelf for our 3 year old twins, they couldn't care less. He's been laid in a dolls bed for 3 days 'ill'. Waste of money.....yes!

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  31. I agree that Christmas is way over the top now. However, I have to ask when did Prosecco become an essential part of Christmas? The stollen and pannetone have been around for decades now but Prosecco for Christmas? The traditional Christmas drinks were things Li!e Port, Stone's Ginger Wine etc!!

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  32. Her hee hee. So true!! I know ppl who do the Xmas eve hampers. I never had one as a kid. Hot Choc and a movie then sod off to bed so the last of the presents can be wrapped up!! That's how it goes in my house! Social media is to blame for all the pressure to look perfect.

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  33. I bought into the whole pj thing once - two sets of beautiful and eye-wateringly expensive designer ones. I then spent the whole of Xmas morning hovering around with a baby wipe in hand, incapable of relaxing, just in case they dribbled any breakfast/chocolate on them (which they inevitably did!). Don't do it!;-)

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  34. Brilliant article! Bit gutted to find out that "God no, I can't be arsed with all that shit" is not an appropriate response at these times. I'd better follow your blog to get more handy tips!!

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  35. Well I tried to ve organised, with hubby working away and my car unsuitable to carry a Xmas tree I oredered one to be delivered. The plan to dress it and the house as a lovely surprise for his return! Has it arrived, has it chuff!!!!!
    Luckily he will be much more interested in seeing our 14week old than a tree anyway!!!

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  36. When did Santa start getting all the credit, anyway? We got a stocking (clementine, apple, toothbrush, chocolate coins) from Santa and everything else was gifts from Real People. I want my kid to know that *I* lovingly panic-bought her presents.

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  37. Ha ha love it :) I actually quite enjoy doing a faffy gingerbread house with all those intricate jelly decor and crushed candy windows (I even do colour schemes) but I do agree, there is far too much involved nowadays. I'm all for buying most of the food ready made and just buying basic baubles :) Christmas should be stress free!

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  38. Thing is... I AM a crafty bakey person. Very much so. So the expectation and pressure for me to provide is huge. I do it to myself. All this stuff that I can easily do... Along side running 3 businesses and home educating my daughter.
    I'm a perfectionist with my tree, so daughter has her own. This year only hers has gone up.
    The salt dough handprints were a little late and are still drying. Maybe I'll paint them in the new year along with last year's ones.
    Tomorrow I hope to remember to marzipan the cake.
    I think Christmas eve boxes perpetuate greed but I do give my daughter a nightie I made as we always had new nightwear to wake up in Christmas day. And I can't stand that sodding elf! You have to be good and here's a hypocrite to watch you and show you how fun being naughty is...

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  39. Love this. It must be lots of fun making gingerbread houses and craft if you are into that. It has taken a few years but I now accept I will never be one of those people! The one wreath I made ended up on the compost heap before it was finished. I shouted at my daughter when she bugged me for hours (just before bed, after work) to decorate the tree (setting the tone for a no doubt idyllic Christmas). I bought a Lego advent calendar and we all gave up on day two. (My two only want the chocolate ones anyway) and my 'pre christmas party' consisted of pizza and the Disney carols CD. I am going to cook whatever is left on the shelf on 24th... Merry Christmas :-)

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  40. 100 years ago the harvest glut would be over and you'd be down to boring repetitive meals then it was a delight to get a few special things saved for Christmas. Now Christmas is ott to make it outstand from theabundence we live with. No doubt the same is true of gifts. I don't do Santa, usually work Christmas day and simply ensure there its a day devoted to the kids for games etc they gifts from me and from my parents.eg 7 pounds work of Lego and top trumps and happy get DVD. very low stress. I've had a great holiday.

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  41. Love this article as I was thinking in the run up to Christmas that I was failing as a parent by not buying into the whole new expectation of everything you have mentioned. My kids are now 13 and 8 and have never had a Christmas eve box and are happy with everything we do at Christmas! I was hosting Christmas lunch this year as well and I felt pressure to have the table perfect as well but in the end I cobbled some bits together and it looked lovely!

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  42. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!


    Kids Essential Set

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  43. A whole year late to this post but hey ho!

    I have 4 kids (19 down to 7) - have never seen the point of the elf. My kids do have new PJs for Xmas Eve though (only since about 4 years ago) so they all look nice and clean for Xmas day pics first thing - they used to get them for Xmas anyway, so it's just a case of a day earlier(it does mean that my 19yo now has about 18 pairs of PJs as she no longer grows out of them...)
    FC only fills stockings in this house (never, ever let your children take their stockings to their rooms - leave them downstairs - we have to set alarms to fill them for the teenagers as they are inevitably later going to bed than us!! :D x

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