“Christmas is weird – what other time of year do you sit in front of a dead tree, eating lollies out of a sock?” When I read that, I thought, how true it is that Christmas can be a really weird time of year. At what other time such as on Christmas morning, in preparation for the dreaded lunch, can you imagine several million people across the world, willingly sticking their hands up a chook's bottom, stuffing it with something you would never eat on its own?
Now while the word “dreaded” and “Christmas lunch” may not go hand in hand for everybody, the fact is that for probably half of the population, it can be an uncomfortable, tedious and sometimes hideously awful time. For couples, the chances of having a terrible Christmas double as they oftentimes have to juggle functions with two very different families, who usually put pressure on them to attend their own important festivities, in preference to the other family. I shudder to imagine the results when alcohol is thrown in.
For some families the horrors of Christmas extend into gift-giving. I can recall the year I received five boxes of chocolates, four of which were identical: obviously the supermarket had been having a big sale that week. And while we're talking about unimaginative gifts, at what other time is it so evident that your family is so completely clueless about you? If I put together every single candle that I've received in the past decade, I'd need the local fire brigade on standby should I decide to light them all.
Growing up, we girls were usually told that it was bad manners to throw away gifts, no matter how revolting or tacky they were. Even now, I have a gift or two floating around on a dusty shelf somewhere, out of a sense of obligation. I'm hoping that they will accidentally get knocked down and broken, or get sucked into an inter-dimensional vortex.
For most of us, Christmas is a test of our personal safe-gift recognition ability: “Will these red undies be too radical for Grandad, and would a lifetime's supply of cotton buds be overdoing it for Mum?”
Sometimes though, I wonder if certain family members are taking part in an experiment called “What is the worst gift that I can get away with giving?” On several occasions, I've been on the receiving end of such atrocious gifts that I threw them in the bin rather than pass them on to St Vinnies – they were too horrendous to inflict on an unprepared and unsuspecting public.
I reflect on the possibility sometimes that certain family members are simply having fun at my expense, and enjoying the look on my face as I struggle to pretend that their gift is precisely what I was hoping for: