It’s certainly that time of year when thoughts turn to the annual frenzy of Christmas. The ads are coming thick and fast on the telly and there are subtle and not so subtle signs everywhere that ‘tis almost the season to be jolly’. One not so subtle panic inducing message greeted me when I walked into the bank one day last week.
There was a great big easel with a flipchart and the words ‘46 days to Christmas’ scrawled across it. It’s possible that men might find that written statement mildly comforting, believing the event is still a lifetime away. In fact for the average male who takes care of his Christmas duties between the hours of 4pm and 5pm on Christmas Eve, then it is indeed a lifetime away. However as a woman it practically pushed me over the edge. I gathered myself and decided to take a deep breath. For me it is always about the old time/money/people triangle.
There is an old Hollywood movie industry theory which basically states that for any movie to be successful it needs a minimum of two elements of the triangle to start with. If you have all three then you are really laughing. The theory goes for example that if you have good talented people at your disposal and plenty of money, then you can pay for things to be done quickly and time is less important. If you have time and money then you can buy the talent and if you have time and good people then you can spread the cost, call in plenty of favours and money then becomes the less needed resource. While it holds very true in the movie and theatre business, life has taught me that it also holds true when looking at any project. Christmas is just the type of project that the time/money/people triangle is very relevant to.
Looking at Christmas as a project the first thing to do is work out which element you have or have not in order for it to run smoothly.
If you have money and a little time then you can just get yourself onto the internet with your list and start ordering now, paying the extra for gift wrapping. You can even do this in the middle of the night. However if you don’t do this in the next week or two you start running into order deadlines and the whole delivery anxiety problem once we hit December. You could also just take one of those lovely catalogues that many local shops now produce and create a list from that. Drop it off with payment and the shop will gladly do the rest, having it ready for you to pick up when you get the chance. It would be nice to keep your cash at home as much as possible this year if you can.
If money is the issue but you have time on your hands then you can use it to price compare and shop around locally for the best value. If you have help at hand along with either money or time (friends or capable children) then you have the added bonus of manpower to do extra research, a bit of humping and lumping when it comes to shopping and maybe some wrapping and decorating tasks as well. Again if you have at least two elements of the triangle you should be able to organise the whole Christmas thing without too much fuss or hassle.
The real problem starts to occur when you start hurtling towards the start of December and time is definitely running out, money is quite scarce and sadly you don’t have children to use as shopping Sherpa and research slaves! Inevitably panic drives the whole affair and Panic always invites his good friend Stress along for the ride. You shop feverishly at the last minute meaning that instead of buying food for Christmas you stock up for a 6 month retreat in an underground bunker.
Instead of buying simple and practical gifts for family and friends, Panic causes you to feel like Mrs Rockefeller. The tinsel and the jingle belling shop music trigger thoughts like, “What the hell, it’s Christmas” and suddenly the limit on your credit card becomes a target to reach. The gifts become extravagant and wholly unnecessary. On top of that only the high end products are left and so you have no real choice but to cough up.
Added to all of this is the endless stream of articles and magazines with huge banner headlines that say, “Easiest Christmas Ever”, “Christmas Made Easy” or “Simple Christmas”. You are lured to pick up one of these glossy periodicals at an extortionate price only to find that inside it is just last year’s article, slightly updated. Were you to adhere to all the organisational hints, tips and wisdom, then Christmas would certainly be simple and your name would be Martha Stewart, but in the real world it doesn’t work.
Only on Planet Magazine do women have time to rustle up baskets of chutneys, preserves and homemade chocolates creatively packaged to hand out as gifts. Only on Planet Magazine is there a smug female sitting by the fireside with an immaculately decorated tree, tasteful theme and clean children elaborately wrapping cashmere pashminas and organic silk nightdresses or Jo Malone candles for her fictional family and friends. Only on Planet Magazine did you start the planning for Christmas in July! To be perfectly honest come December these articles are useless as most of them suggest you do it all in November and “breeze through the party season”. Again that’s the Magazine party season requiring just one exquisite little black dress that you accessorise differently for every event. For most of us mere mortals Christmas is about a new pair of pyjamas from Penny’s or Dunnes.
While we might aspire to homemade, origami gift tags the pack of 50 self adhesive ones for a €1 suddenly seems a great deal more practical
and less time consuming. The idea of a Christmas scheme and theme
is lovely, but of course you will use what you have even if the colours don’t exactly match.
But now for the really good news it is still only mid November. You
can get organised without needing lots of money. Make the lists, think about what people really want for Christmas and I’m sure you will find that for most it is ‘presence’ and not ‘presents’ anyway.
Finally think about how much food you actually need. The shops are only closed for one or two days at most. On the other hand if you want a really, really easy Christmas declare that you are really a man trapped in a woman’s body and you have decided to live like a man for a month to see what it’s like. It will take all the pressure away.
You’ll get your shopping done in an hour on Christmas Eve where some poor young-one in a shop will take pity on you because you are a man and wrap the gifts as well! (Actually, you could probably pop into a nearby pub for a drink while she does it.) Then you can just sit back and enjoy what all the women have sweated to provide over the holiday!
You can always go back to being a fully fledged girl come January. There you go, Christmas Made Easy – no magazine article required!