The Christmas juggernaut arrived with a series of roundhouse kicks to my trouser pocket, the one where I keep my wallet.
The first sign of trouble was an extra busy car park at the supermarket. No hand baskets left at the door. People everywhere. Chocolate Santas at the entrance. I’ve never understood Chocolate Santas. Tasty, sure, but the edible Santa thing sends a confusing message. Why bite off the head that feeds you?
Anyway. Loads of tinsel. Every item on every shelf screaming ‘buy me’, even things I’d normally ignore. I ducked through the aisles to get what I was after, which was a single bottle of milk and a few apples. Someone was handing out chocolates. There was wine tasting and a new pesto that I pretended to be interested in even though I knew I wouldn’t buy it.
By the time I got back to the car I found I had also bought beer, wine, chocolate, plunger coffee, orange juice, berries and ice cream. Turned out I’d forgotten the apples so I ducked back in to get them. I came out with pesto.
I’m not sure how that happens. Being surrounded by other people who are engaged in a pre-Christmas shopping frenzy infects me with some kind of consumer virus.
‘Tis the season of the Christmas smackdown, the epic fight between wants and needs. The smartest gift shopping in the world won’t rescue your bank account from the real cost of Christmas, which is all that extra food and drink.
It’s those end of year get-togethers, the dinners and the summer barbeques. It’s the extra naughty items that you buy because, hey, it’s Christmas.
I don’t begrudge any of it, but at times it leaves me breathless. At the very least it leaves the bank account stumbling a few paces behind trying to catching its breath.
My goal for the holidays, as it is every year, is to keep our family splurge within the available limit. We’ll see how that goes. But it’s the end of a long year and I’m looking forward to putting my feet up. I’ve been crawling toward the finish line. The holiday break can’t come soon enough. Damn right I’m going to buy an unnecessary bottle of bubbly.
Every year we collapse into Christmas and convince ourselves next year won’t be as hard. There’s strange maths at work here, because this year always feels much harder than last year. Sticking with that logic, by now our lives should be totally unbearable.
But life’s not unbearable is it? I hope not. It’s easy to get consumed by whatever’s swallowing you up at the time, but there is always a redeeming moment hiding around the corner.
Sure, 2013 has been flooded, typhooned, spied upon and we lost the Auld Mug. But 2013 was also the year of Lorde, The Luminaries, the unbeaten All Blacks and most importantly my 7 year old earned a gymnastics trophy. Beat that.
My wish for 2014 is that the online nit pickers and the letter writing grumpy bums will stop working so hard to bring everything down. You know the people I’m talking about: those serial complainers who are determined to see a cloud in every silver lining. Man, I’d hate to be invited to their place for Christmas. They’d either scoff at the quality of the bubbly I bring round or moan that I’ve spent too much on it. It takes a lot of effort to be that negative.
Enough with the grumpy bums. These holidays I’m going to spend time with smilers instead of sneerers. I hope you are able to do that too. Unhunch those shoulders, give generously, eat strawberries. Share some bubbly if you can stretch it. You deserve it and, hey, it’s Christmas.
First published in Bay of Plenty Times 20 December 2013. Reproduced with permission.