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I find Christmas a lot easier than New Year’s, but both present their own difficulties.

This year (well, last year) I did not feel in the mood for Christmas at all in the run up. I didn’t have 4son asking for a tree at the beginning of December and by the time it was the end of term I just decided it wasn’t worth it. If no one else is bothered by the lack of Christmas decorations then why should I go to all that effort of getting it all down from the attic and packing it all away afterwards.

That wasn’t the only reason though. We normally put the tree and other decorations up on the front room, which the boys often don’t use during the day at all so what’s the point?

It’s also more fundamental than that. I’ve done Christmas for so many years and put all the effort in mostly by myself and I’m bored of it. 1son used to be master of ceremonies and turn present opening into a long happy and fun occasion but that’s no more. I’ve come to an agreement with my children on presents as they either want cash or online games that don’t need wrapping. This year I didn’t even wrap the selection boxes. 1son normally goes to a book shop to buy a round of presents but he only managed his bus fare home this time. He does succeed in getting most of us playing various board games over the holiday period which is the one thing that brings most of us together. Doctor Who is the only television we watch together and 2son didn’t bother attending.

Nevertheless I enjoyed the day. It might have been low key but we all did what we wanted to do and spent time in each other’s company which is what Christmas is really about, once children grow beyond wanting lots and lots of massive presents to open. In the years since my parents stopped joining us for Christmas the day has evolved and is still evolving. Having a relaxed attitude to food and spending a few hours in the pub are two of the key differences. Drinking champagne out of pewter tankards is a minor one. It’s becoming our Christmas and won’t ever fully stop evolving. Hopefully one day the others will grow up enough to want to put a little bit more effort into making it special.

New Year I find a lot more challenging emotionally. I see it as a time of personal hope and optimism. People are excited to face new challenges and book new holidays, making resolutions that often fall by the wayside by the end of January. My attitude tends to be more “same shit, different year” and it’s only very rarely that I can be in the mood to feel positive about what’s coming. I’ve learned this over the years and if I am staying at home I don’t watch live television and feel miserable because I’m not out there in a crowd. I don’t watch or read anything that can get me close to tears. Last year I went, on my own, to a local pub with a band playing that I liked and, while it was certainly weird being on my own, I was fine and happy. This year the opportunity to go out with friends was there but I just didn’t feel optimistic or enthusiastic. I turned down several offers (which in itself was nice) and chose to go home early and ignore it all. I was fine, although resented the staying up to 2am waiting for 2son to come home from his revels as he does not yet understand the concept of taking a key with him.

This holiday period (the French say “Bonne continuation” as the holiday continues from Christmas to the New Year, and so, I just discovered, do Swedes) is tough on expectations. Whether it’s the expectation of presents, or turkey on the table at 1pm sharp, or unwanted relatives, in the run up to Christmas we are all filled with messages on how we ought to perform at Christmas, with lavishly decorated rooms, tables filled with food and drink, presents galore and every family member. And everybody is happy, smiling, laughing, having fun all the way through. If this truly is how you spend Christmas then you are very very lucky. For most of us it just isn’t, for different reasons for all of us. I have done what I can to take control of how I spend the day and how my children spend the day so that we all have a little of what we want and we all end up reasonably content at the end of the day with the only murders taking place on screen or in a board game. Sometimes it’s brilliant, sometimes it’s just fine, but never are we going through the day again with gritted teeth biting our tongue. And even if my parents end up living round the corner, they are not joining us for Christmas again. Ever*.

* I have a feeling we may have a debate about this.