Lucy Corry’s Blog: A survivor’s guide to Christmas
Christmas is a scenic marathon, says Lucy Corry, not a sprinting race.
I love Christmas, truly I do. I’m a sucker for twinkling lights and sleigh bells and Santa, I’m unashamedly fond of the whole gaudy, glitzy shebang. I like to sing along (very badly) to Handel’s Messiah while making my Christmas cake. I diligently send cards every year to an ever-shrinking number of faraway friends and elderly relatives. Love Actually makes me weep, every time.
Hearing a Christmas carol without warning can also induce tears (embarrassing if I’m in a supermarket in the middle of the day). I encourage the preparation of snacks for Father Christmas and reindeer.
In times’ past I’ve hunted down special wrapping paper and matching gift labels. I’ve stayed up late making panettone and stuffing stockings. If there was a prize for the most diligent supporter of all things yuletide, I’d surely be a contender.
But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that at the start of every December I feel sickened by the thought of it all. Christmas, especially for someone with perfectionist tendencies who likes to cook, can be a bloody hard slog. If it was only Christmas — one day in December of luxurious eating and present-giving and general peace and goodwill toward all — then it mightn’t feel like such a marathon.
But add in everything else that suddenly needs to happen before December 25 — a school shared lunch, a secret Santa here, a charity event there, work Christmas parties, catching up with people you haven’t seen since this time last year, deadlines and other life admin — and I start to lose my festive zen faster than you can eat a candy cane.
It’s recently struck me that the reason that I cry at Christmas carols, when Emma Thompson realises Alan Rickman is cheating on her and when putting decorations on the tree, is that I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.
When I’m feeling extra Grinch-y, I think fondly of the Christmas I spent on my own in Phnom Penh. I bought myself presents, bought some food from the market and made sure I had plenty of ice, gin and extremely expensive imported tonic for guests who came to visit me in the afternoon. It was heavenly.
But looking through the scratched and foggy lens of 2020, a time when it’s become clear that we can take nothing for granted, that seems churlish. So instead I remind myself of all the festive things I truly adore and how lucky I am to be able to do them. And that I — mostly — enjoy all the emotional (and physical) labour involved.
However, this year I’m not going to drive myself into the ground to Make Christmas Happen. You shouldn’t either. This is my gift to you: permission to Do Less. If your child announces at bed time one night that they have a class Christmas shared lunch tomorrow, you don’t have to make a late-night trip to the supermarket to buy ingredients to make something relatively healthy because every other parent will be sending a bag of crisps.
You can just be every other parent for once. No one will die. If your significant other announces that they’ve invited eight for dinner the week before Christmas, smile sweetly and tell them you can’t wait to see what they’re cooking. Or suggest you eat out as a festive gesture to the hospitality industry.
No one will know if you haven’t made Christmas mince pies from scratch. It’s perfectly fine to make your Christmas cake in January. Loved ones will be secretly relieved if you don’t get around to making them edible bath bombs. Just because something exists on Pinterest doesn’t make it a necessity.
If you want to do all these things and you have enough gas in the metaphorical tank, go right ahead. But if you’re starting to run on fumes, think instead of how much more festive and relaxed you’ll feel by not doing them. Get yourself in training for that post-Christmas period, when there’s not as much to do and a lot more time in which to do it. You’ll never be able to properly relax in a deckchair if you don’t get in some practice now.