Most wonderful time of the year?

My favourite time is when the turkey is on the table and I can finally relax
My mum and I have hosted our fair share of Christmases so know how exhausting it can be

Well the big day is just around the corner and no doubt any youngsters in your life will be bursting with excitement in anticipation of the arrival of the fat man in the red suit.

I heard a rather interesting statistic the other day following this question: ‘According to a recent survey, what percentage of adults think that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year?’ There were two answers to choose from, 34% or 54% (Which do you think is correct? I’ll tell you at the end of this column).

My teenage son immediately expressed shock that the higher number was not even higher because, surely, everyone MUST love Christmas?

Ahhh, the optimism of youth! I said the answer would depend on who the respondents were. If it was mainly young people and men, who have no idea of the amount of effort, work and stress that goes into making a wonderful Christmas, then the answer would be the higher one. If most of the respondents were women, then it would be the lower one (apologies to any males who take on the behemoth of Christmas, but statistics show it is still mostly women). Of course, you also have to factor in those who are alone, sick or missing loved ones, for which this time of year is especially difficult.

“You mean you don’t think Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year?” my son asked in dismay.

I had to explain that I love lots of things about Christmas, particularly the bit where the turkey comes out of the oven and is on the table, as that’s when I know my job is done and I can start to relax. But for those of us who have to shoulder the responsibility of almost everything to do with Christmas, it is blooming hard graft. It should be compulsory for every person who has organised Christmas to be sent on an all-expenses-paid spa retreat for the whole of January to recover.

OK, so I know I am being a bit bah-humbug, and there is lots that I genuinely love about the festive season, but I do feel there is a distinct lack of awareness among those who do not have to do the bulk of the organising to understand the immense effort it takes to make it the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. And don’t get me started on the expense (I do have a 750-word limit, after all!).

Possibly what I enjoy most of all are the frequent gatherings with friends and family. I love it when we all get together over delicious food and overflowing drink to enjoy each other’s company.

As my dad explains in his column from 22nd December 1979, back in the day (and as I remember in the 1970s), it used to be customary for any visitors to be offered a slice of traditional Christmas cake and maybe even a glass of sherry. I’m not sure if that custom still persists, as fewer and fewer people make the traditional cake these days.

The cake would be big enough to last many servings, and as Dad wrote in 1979: ‘The milkman, butcher, postman and others must receive countless portions during their Christmas rounds.’

He remembers a local doctor who would keep several sheets of greaseproof paper in his bag, and politely ask his generous patients if he could take the cake home to share with his wife. By the time he’d finished his rounds, his bag would be bursting with slices, but at least he hadn’t offended anyone by refusing it, nor made himself ill by eating too much!

My mum still makes a deliciously moist traditional fruit cake, and I recall as youngsters, my three siblings and I were all invited to take a turn stirring the mixture. It would be a couple of months before Christmas, and would have been the first exciting hint that it wasn’t far away.

Although I wasn’t a massive fan of fruit cake, the best bit about it was that it would be coated in a thick layer of marzipan, and then another thick layer of rock-hard white royal icing. Some were even decorated with a ribbon around the outside and a collection of jaunty festive plastic figures on top.

Now back to the survey. The answer was 34%.

I wish you all the best for Christmas, and a very happy new year.

Read more at Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times  on 20th and the Gazette & Herald on 18th December 2019

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