Every year I look forward to Christmas with the excitement of a small child (or three small children as is the case in my house). Every year I just know it’s going to be the Best Christmas Ever. And every year, when we’re right in the middle of it, I look around and wonder how on earth it all seemed like such a good idea. Not to get all Grinchy now, but there are some ideas that seem so much better before than after.
The Christmas Tree
Before: There’s nothing like the smell of a real tree – the pine needles remind me of childhood Christmases.
After: As I look at the dried out husk, with sad, dropping branches while I sweep up pine needles for the six hundredth time, I curse my real tree and swear we’re going plastic next year (and then forget all about it when the time for ooh’ing and ahh’ing over pine-needle-smell comes around again)
The Fairy Lights
Before: I love fairy lights – so twinkly and pretty. I love switching them on for the first time and seeing the kids’ faces light up with excitement; bringing Christmas magic into the home.
After: If I have to spend one more evening twisting every single one of the two thousand bulbs to see which one has caused the entire set to switch off, I’m cancelling Christmas.
The Christmas Carols
Before: I can’t wait to hear some Christmas carols and really get in the mood for the season. We should really buy a CD of Christmas songs for the car.
After: Please. Please. Make it stop.
The Department Store Santa Visit
Before: Bringing the kids to visit Santa will be a lovely way to start off the season.
After: Queuing for an hour and a half with three small kids to see a grumpy Santa and get a plastic tea-set that I’ll throw out as soon as I can – how did I not remember this from last year?
Before: Opening gifts is such a special time – watching faces light up as they unwrap the perfect present that I spent weeks and weeks and weeks choosing.
After: Um yes, here’s the receipt – of course I don’t mind if you exchange it. OF COURSE NOT.
Before: The smell of roast turkey with stuffing and gravy is surely one of the cornerstones of the whole holiday season – I’m salivating just thinking about it.
After: If I see another turkey sandwich, turkey curry or turkey stir-fry, I’m going to throw up.
Before: I can’t wait for all the amazing Christmas TV – the old classic movies and the new Christmas specials – pass me the remote and a box of Heroes.
After: Seen it. Seen it. Terrible. Seen it. Not suitable for watching with the family in the room. Seen it. Did anyone bring a DVD?
Before: Christmas is all about kids. And magic, and seeing it though their eyes – watching their little faces light up on Christmas morning.
After: Dear Jesus. Is it bed-time yet? What do you mean it’s only 3 o’clock? Pass me the gin.
Before: I can’t wait for a week off work and all that lovely sleep every morning.
After: Why, when I have to pull them out of bed on a school-day, are they up at 6am every morning at Christmas? And why do I never remember this when I’m pouring another glass of wine the night before?
The Wine and Chocolate
Before: I love wine and chocolate.
After: l still love wine and chocolate.
But really, I do love Christmas, and the kids love Christmas, and I love watching them enjoying it. The fun is in the planning, and if it doesn’t always turn out exactly as planned, that’s OK.
By next December, I’ll have forgotten the pine needles all over the floor, the scraps of wrapping paper in every corner, the plates of never-ending turkey in the fridge, the near constant mild hangover, the over-stimulated cranky kids, and the pretending that everything’s perfect. I’ll be getting ready for the Best. Christmas. Ever.
A version of this post was also published in TheJournal.ie: Christmas Expectations Versus Reality