First Christmas under the same roof with my new husband! Ah, the sweet mingling of traditions, families and memories: the exhilarating potential for bloodshed. I don’t do Christmas, as a rule. Spending and eating to excess seems dull and nonsensical, while all that “goodwill to mankind” stuff chafes painfully at my tiny dark heart.
Moreover, my job requires that I work twice as hard during December as any other month, bellowing carols and jingling sleigh bells at old ladies, so that when the 25th finally rolls round, my sole wish is that it depart speedily and silently.
Husband, however, despite also having a job that makes him work three times as hard in December, goes loopy for Christmas. There must be board games, family outings, church services, Radio Times, crackers, advent calendars, roaring log fires, felt antlers, mistletoe, pints of rum punch and Stilton for breakfast.
Each Christmas card for every one of his 8000 odd friends must be carefully personalised with a drawing and inspirational message. Presents must be perfect, even if that means chasing them down from the obscurest corners of the earth. And I must wear stockings to serve him veggie steak pie on Christmas eve. He assures me that’s an ancient Kentish tradition.
Devoted wife that I am, I am not compromising one bit. I’m going along with it all with barely a mutter, sprinkling jollity and glitter as I go, because I adore him and want him to have the Christmas he deserves. Teenage son is certainly thrilled at the new regime, and actually, much to my astonishment, I’m rather enjoying it myself. All that pointless weird bonhomie seems rather pleasant and purposeful this year.
I’ve discovered the great secret of happiness, which I shall pass on to you, as a genuine, no strings attached, no receipt necessary, Christmas gift. To be happy, you must make someone else happy. To live for yourself, you must live for another. I’m not the first to realise that; in fact I’m pretty slow on the uptake. But this incontrovertible truth strikes me forcibly as I sit through Carols by Candlelight, warbling Away in a Manger for the 15th time that week, this time not even for money. (That’s not even an exaggeration. Fifteen times. All of the verses. My throat couldn’t hate me more if I gargled razors). Husband and fine new sister in law are having a blast, and I feel part of something splendid.
Think about the kind of friend, wife, brother, daughter, whatever, you’d like to be this Christmas, to maximise someone else’s joy.
You’ll have that happy Christmas we’re forever, unthinkingly, wishing each other, and it doesn’t even cost you.