‘Happy Christmas’ … or is it more of a ‘humbug’ for you?
Just how ‘happy’ does this festive season make you feel and if your slow mutation into the Grinch starts at around the same time Father Tesco starts to deck the shelves with “seasonal offers”, (immediately after the August Bank Holiday), then by the time the Big Day arrives, you will already have descended into the pit of Dysfunctional Offended Gloom Syndrome, or in other words you’ve gone to the DOGS; or you will probably be sunning yourself on the shores of a republic that has not yet succumbed to the commercial pressure of Coca-Cola’s most famous personality (or at least wishing you were!)
No, love it or loathe it, as with the Big Man’s waistline, Christmas has expanded; no longer the preserve of the last 2 weeks in December, the commercial world has extended it all the way back to the late summer months in its escalating efforts to embrace us all in an endless onslaught of just how jolly we all must be for the next four months (there’s nothing like feeling happy to make you want to spend more money).
Christmas costs on average £478
I for one avoid going down the supermarket aisles that are stupefied with every conceivable treat, but by November, it becomes increasingly difficult to shop without being confronted by Port & Stilton gift packages, bags of prettily decorated walnuts or exotically stuffed joints of meat.
So woe betides you if you are not smiling happily and enjoying every second of the festive season when it eventually arrives in person; from the peeling of the Brussels sprouts to the pulling of the Tom Smith Christmas crackers. It is the season of goodwill to all men, women, children, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, mother-in-law, even next door’s morose teenaged son who skulks around the bus shelter with his dark hoody pulled over his head and trousers half way down his backside (not so much the grim reaper as the pants peeker). I think you probably get the picture.
From the moment you open door number 1 on the Advent Calendar, it’s a helter-skelter ride to the main event: 25 December, Christmas Day; 24 hours of over-excited children, dreams realised, dreams shattered, too much drink, too much food, too much TV and too much money spent.
The average spend is £132 per child
So with so much personal store being put into such a short lived event, is it any wonder that many of us reach breaking point and whilst some manage to keep a hold of the end of that tether, many snap under the strain as the effort becomes too much and go cold turkey on Boxing Day in more ways than one.
In 2012 we pulled 300 million Christmas crackers
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), January sees twice as many divorce proceedings initiated as any other time of the year, and this in part is due to family gatherings when people spend more time than usual with family members that they diligently avoid the rest of the year.
ONS stats for Dec 2012: 42% of marriages end in divorce
And for those couples who have two of more sets of parents and/or grandparents to mollify, given that a sacrifice is no longer deemed PC to appease these demi-gods who put demands the size of Mount Zion on your emotions, you will be faced with the dilemma of who, when and where.
ONS statistics for 2012 show there are 12.2 million married couples in England & Wales and 38% of them have dependent children; which by my reckoning comes to around 4 million families who have to ensure around 16 million family members are happy for around 24 hours each year.
However, given the 117,558 divorces in 2011, you might also have to factor in the possibility of an estranged husband or wife who wants their share too.
So that’s not so very hard is it?
And then of course there’s the cost. The average spend per present is £28 and the Christmas dinner around £118 but with everything else added in, you could be looking at spending an average of £478 and don’t forget the travel, with an average of 63 miles being covered to be with our loved ones.
So given the money spent, the miles driven, the tempers frayed and the arguments caused, is it so very surprising that the Season of Goodwill has morphed into a time of resentment and aggravation?
A family relation of mine has the answer; around the time the ‘seasonal’ aisles start to show themselves, we can expect a phone call along the lines of “… I know it’s a bit early, but …”
But it’s never too early to plan for Christmas … I’ve already started to plan for next year – those golden sands and palm trees look perfect!