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Dublin: 13 °C Sunday 21 April, 2019
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Opinion: Christmas – the season of sugar-laced tantrums, queues, and unreasonable demands

One disastrous shopping attempt and an aborted visit to see the Christmas tree lights are all you need to find what’s really important in the run-up to Christmas…

Claire Micks

I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I really do. It’s just that sometimes, I find the essence of Christmas, that lovely seasonal, Coca Cola, smell of fir tree, ‘We’re Walking in the Air’, chestnuts roasting on an open fire type feeling gets buried beneath the overwhelming demands of traditions, and presents, and general ‘Are we having fun yet!!!’ pressures.

Take the lighting of the Christmas Tree in our local park this weekend. I saw the posters and thought, ‘Oh, how lovely! Let’s bring her along to mark the start of Christmas. See her little face light up. Create a festive ‘memory’. Still and all as I’ve had multiple failed experiences of this kind already (of the rose tinted, kiddy variety, which invariable go pear-shaped) I still pony up each and every time, and expect that this time will be different. Which, of course, it wasn’t.

Not-so-merry-Christmas

First, it rained. Not the torrential, ‘OK, we’ll leave it and stay home variety’. No, the quintessentially Irish, ‘I look like I’m not really raining out, but spend ten minutes in me and you’ll end up damp to the core’ variety.

Then, turns out, ten thousand other parents felt a similar level of pressure to ‘create a memory’ and had also ventured out for said occasion. Even though it was five o’clock and already edging towards the witching hour, with no dinners generally having been had.

Then she got scared because she didn’t much like the look of the fat bloke in the red and white outfit wandering around pretending to be everybody’s mate. Understandably took umbrage at some random punter she’d never seen before in her life invading her personal space.

Then she needed a wee. As did 15 other children. Who were better at holding it then herself.

She eventually decided she didn’t like the crowds, nor the rain, nor Santa, and that she wanted to go home. But not before the bloody lights got turned on. ‘Mummy, get the lights turned on… GET the lights turned ON MUMMY!’. Oh, sweet Jesus.

As there was no sign of any movement whatsoever on that front, no so much as even a candle to be seen, I made the controversial decision to abort the mission. Made an educated guess that should we have to wait longer than another five minutes for the famous lights, or should one of Santa’s sidekicks randomly decide to introduce himself, we were going to end up with the mother of all tantrums, in a crowd, from which it would be difficult if not impossible to escape.

So I made a break for it. Put the foot down and headed for home.

To be fair, I had the element of surprise on my side, so we were practically out of the place before she twigged what was going on. But there followed a 20 minute walk home with her wriggling violently around our long suffering buggy wailing ‘But I want to see the lights on, MUMMY!’ at the top of her voice. To the families we met coming the other direction, I must have looked like Cruella Deville.

‘Tis the season to be jolly?’ My backside…

Lord of the Flies type mentality amongst shoppers

We’d been in town earlier that day as Mummy tried to figure out what the hell she was going to wear to various Christmas get togethers, and fought her way down Grafton Street in search of something vaguely plausible yet cheap. Also had vague intentions of trying to knock some of the Christmas shopping off our list at 20% off. Hadn’t quite twigged the significance of ‘Black Friday’ weekend. That it spells a Lord of the Flies type mentality amongst shoppers. Pande-bloody-monium.

Good will to all men? You’ve got to be joking. There were women in the shops last weekend who I’d say were inches away from requesting that I be removed from the shop floor because I dared to bring the Maclaren. By the end of the afternoon I had given up on all good manners and decorum and instead used the buggy as fairly effective battering ram. Got a great sense of satisfaction from trading my ‘Excuse me!… So sorry!… If I could just squeeze passed there please?’, for just ploughing straight into their Louboutins.

The streets and shops may have been festooned with fairy lights and Santa’s and ‘compliments of the season’. But let there be no doubt, beneath all the Christmas ‘cheer’, there were some very serious shoppers on the prowl with agendas and purpose and the singular determination of Lara Croft. Yes, the business of Christmas is not one to be taken lightly. Dressing for it. Gifting for it. Looking one’s best for it. Not a task for the faint-hearted. As I watched immaculately clad women bustle along laden down with bags and labels and attitude, I felt inadequate. And in the way. And not in the least bit festive.

We passed a shop window and she spotted the most enormous princess castle known to man. I doubt we’d get mortgage approval for this pink plastic number but she became immediately obsessed. The previous (jammy) Santa request of bobbins and hair clips instantly went out the window and were promptly replaced by Princess Precocious’ Overprized Palace. So of course we went in for a gawk.

Some random shop assistance shoved a chocolate into madam’s grubby paw before I had a chance to stop her. Which only added to the sugar coursing through her veins from the marshmallow laden hot chocolate I’d caved and bought her earlier. ‘Tis the season for all and sundry to shovel sugar laden treats in the direction of the kids’ apparently. Because ‘It is Christmas after all!’. Like I hadn’t noticed. Which is all well and good for them. They get the delighted smiles and shrieks of joy and over-the-top toddler gratitude. I get the ‘come down’ tantrum half an hour later.

The buses were mobbed. The drivers were irritable. The passengers were exhausted, and spun out, and squeezed between oversized shopping bags (why, oh why, do they make them SO big?). Most still on edge after the Black Friday trolley dash. Meanwhile her nibs was still lamenting the loss of ‘her’ princess palace, and arguing defiantly that yes, we could have balanced it atop the buggy.

What you really need at Christmas…

We made it home eventually. Post disastrous shopping attempt and aborted Christmas tree lighting. Post ‘Santa-Gate’ and sugar inflated tantrum. Took a few deep breaths and tried to undo the damage of the previous few hours. Had a strong cup of tea and tried to sober up her sugar buzz with some warm milk. Curled up on the couch and read her one of her Christmas story books. Debated, at length, the number, size and variety of reindeer required to circumnavigate the globe overnight, and other important related matters.

Figured out that actually, all you really need for Christmas, is the comfort of your own home and a date with Bing Crosby. Resolved that I wouldn’t dare brave town again until at least New Year. No matter what marketing ploys were dangled underneath my nose. No matter what bloody trees were being lit, nor stable animals were being wheeled out. No matter what fairs or festivals or freebies were being pedalled. We’re staying put. And having a low maintenance Christmas free of all that ‘Are we having fun yet!!!’ pressure.

That was of course until I remembered that we’ve still to go and see Santa…

Claire Micks is an occasional writer. Read her columns for TheJournal.ie here.

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