It starts around the middle of October, that notion in the back of your mind that there’s something you ought to be getting on with. The volume level gradually increases as November begins until finally the urgency of the message is unmistakable. It’s time for the Christmas shopping. There’s a deadline coming and if you don’t get the job done we will all be sitting round on Christmas Day – empty-handed? Or everyone else will be distributing beautifully wrapped, carefully chosen gifts, and I won’t have anything to offer because December 25 took me by surprise.
The stress of it is out of all proportion – or is it just me who frets as to whether we’ve bought the perfect present for loved ones, and whether it’s somehow ‘enough’?
Anyway, this year, just as the anxiety began to set in, I actually broached the subject with the immediate family. There was a sigh of relief all round. If money were no object, it would be easy to skim through the luscious John Lewis Christmas catalogue and tick off the list. But there are grand-babies due in early 2013 and parenthood will soak up any disposable income our kids may have, and one way or another we are all in the squeezed middle.
So we have agreed a really low spending limit per head. It’s better to get one thing that is just right, or just amusing, whatever. And once these items have been found, that’s it. No more worrying about equity and fairness. No more arms race. We have of course made an exception for the under-18s and the poverty-stricken student.
Alternatively, among my siblings, we have agreed just to stop altogether. We are all middle-aged; we have, generally, all the ‘stuff’ we want or need. If someone has a hobby or enthusiasm they will get what they want, when they want it. Second guessing in these cases is useless, and I’ve always disliked exchanging lists – it’s gruesome, and not in the right spirit at all, although subtle hints are just about OK.
We’ll see how it goes – maybe Christmas Day will be too much as though chez Cratchit. But I don’t think so. If I’m not stressing about gifts I shall have all the more time to get ahead, as they say, with the sumptuous meals. The capon with its stuffing, the renowned roast potatoes (learned at my father’s knee), a chocolate torte, a fish pie, maybe a pot-roast for one of the in-between days. Surely a tagine with my Moroccan daughter-in-law. Or what about that pavlova from delicious. magazine?