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Column: Christmas expectations vs reality

Real Christmas trees, trips to see Santa, and snow – these are all much better in your head.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexander Volke

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 showing the kids – 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. Please.

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?

The Gifts

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.

The Snow

Before: I’m dreaming of a white Christmas – the holidays just aren’t complete without a delicate blanket of snow to pretty everything up.

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After: What the hell is this brown, muddy, slush all over my back garden?

The Turkey

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.

The Wine and Chocolate

Before: I love wine and chocolate.

After: l still love wine and chocolate.

But really, I do love Christmas. The fun is in the planning. And if it doesn’t always turn out exactly as planned, that’s OK. I’ll have forgotten it all by next December, and we can do it all again.

Andrea Mara has three small kids, one tall husband and one office job. She writes at about being a parent, being a mother working outside the home, and being a woman in the workplace. She’s just trying to keep her balance. Follow her tweets@office_mum or on Facebook.

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