It almost seems churlish to be apportioning Christmas tips against a backdrop of sickness and economic distress. Pretending that it’s going to be anything but tough, uncomfortable and peculiar this year, is not helpful at all. But, as the Archbishop of Canterbury said on last Sunday’s The Andrew Marr Show, we must focus on what we can do, and not what we can’t.
One thing we certainly could try to do is eliminate all this ‘should’ business from the festivities. TV, magazines and social media, may have us believe that we should display a decorated tree worthy of the pages of Country Living, with a stack of meticulously-wrapped presents beneath, and a dining table groaning with homemade delicacies. But, Christmas would still be Christmas without all of this. Tree or no tree, it would still be a religious holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus or, if you prefer, a day off work to spend as you please.
Let’s start with that dining table. The finest set of Christmas food tips I’ve ever seen came from a butchers in Sheffield - Patterson’s Butchers to be precise. They kindly reminded us that Christmas dinner was basically Sunday dinner, the same meal we manage to cook quite happily for 51 weeks of the year, and then somehow collapse under the pressure of on the 52nd. Don’t panic. A turkey is just a big chicken, stuffing is just Paxo and a kettle, gravy is just Bisto and a kettle, frozen peas count as veg, and supermarkets do a great job of providing ready-made cakes, pies and puddings for dessert. Oh, and if everyone hates turkey and mince pies, don’t set yourself up for a fall, there’s no law against roast beef followed by apple crumble. Nor is there one outlawing fish fingers rounded off with ice cream.
As for the tree, I’ve seen handmade decorations hung off a foraged branch, old dustsheets painted with evergreens and hung on the wall, and even open stepladders covered in baubles and tinsel. They’re more of a conversation starter than any Norway Spruce will ever be.
With undernourished bank balances, presents may well be a sore subject this year. If you’re not a baker or a maker, try websites such as Vinted, where you can grab a brand new pair of Nikes, with tags, or a king-size duvet set, still in its packet, for a fraction of the price. You’d also be surprised what people take to second-hand stores. I’m told that some charity shops in Palma are full of as-new glassware, tableware, and bed linen from superyachts, as their capricious owners unnecessarily replace items every season. If my advice comes a little too late, or gifts are simply an absolute no-no in 2020, give companionship, laughter, a shoulder, a smile. In the words of Janet Jackson, the best things in life are indeed free.
On the subject of free, the great outdoors carries no entry fee, so pop on those trainers and head for a post-prandial stroll and gulp of fresh air. Time spent in nature is never regretted.
And, for crying out loud, do not even think about watching the news or reading a newspaper. Christmas Day is not a day to be reminded of tiers, or mutations, or travel bans, or EU fisheries for that matter. Every time you tuck into a helping of news, you’re gorging on an overwhelming amount of negativity which will infect your thoughts and mood for the rest of the day. Switch. It. Off.