Here we go again. It is the same situation year after year.
The elephant is back in the room, wearing his tinsel, Santa hat and stupid grin.
The big dilemma. To confront or ignore.
For those of us who adhere to the Bah Humbug school of Christmas thought, there is but one answer: ignore.
Usually, to ignore such a looming and persistent presence is merely to delay the inevitable. Problems rarely vanish completely. They return time and again, as regularly as a prancing horse on a carousel until resolved.
In this case, however, there is the certainty that if ignored the yuletide jumbo will not reappear for at least another year.
Simply carry on as if he’s not there. Refuse to participate in his commercial pressures, strained relationships, excessive consumption, needless and often harmful over-indulgence and false bonhomie.
It works. The result is a truly peaceful Christmas.
Over many years I have striven to discover and even enjoy that elusive feelgood experience that is thrust in our faces from mid-November onward.
It has yet to manifest itself and I frequently wonder why as hosting friends and family around a table laden with delicious food and ample drink has long been a pleasure.
The selection and giving of presents on random as well as appropriate occasions has always been done willingly and thoughtfully.
But Christmas escapes me. And increasingly so.
What is its purpose? What are we celebrating with such wanton excess?
Defenders of the indefensible will argue it is a celebration of His birthday. Oh yeah? And when did the birthday boy last put in an appearance, and how many raise a glass to wish Him well or even acknowledge His existence in their lives?
Hokum. Hogwash. Hypocrisy.
There was a time when our family went through the traditional ritual. Stockings laid silently on the beds of sleeping children, pre-dawn awakenings to “see what Santa has brought” and the morning filled with frenzied kitchen activity to prepare a meal that was far in excess of anything we normally consumed.
There were maybe six around the table – grandparents, parents and children. A simple generational mix. But it only worked when we had not made another move (nine schools in total) that created an unworkable distance between the oldies and us.
Deaths, marriage, birth and migration then left a Christmas dinner for three separated by 12,000 miles from any close family still surviving. Hardly the huge festive feasting that has become the de rigueur portrayal of seasonal gatherings.
Moving on down the years and further changes occurred. Working on a daily newspaper meant THE day was spent at a computer preparing diversions for a Boxing Day readership. Likewise, the daughter (and husband) were airline people required to work on one of the busiest travel days of the year.
Christmas thus became something others celebrated. For us, and many others in this modern 24/7 world, it was just another day with perhaps the addition of a paper hat and some tinsel in the workplace.
Around me there is now the semblance of a family but any sustained coming together is fractured by marriages and births and husbands and boyfriends that have created “must attend” distractions to any main event. With this, comes all the arguments, perceived slights and petty rivalries such distractions cause.
Count me out.
As for the unrelenting assault from the commercial world that deems nothing costing less than £100 is an acceptable present and a 60-inch wraparound multi-sound TV with all the trimmings is a must-have gift …
Count me out.
None of the above justifies labelling me as the Grinch, a Scrooge or as an old misery guts. Rather I have found a Christmas formula that brings serenity and contentment of a level I would wish on all at this time of year.
I hie myself away to a rural retreat twixt coast and moor for several days of doing whatever and whenever the mood dictates. Books to read, plenty of yomping to work up an appetite for leisurely home cooking, a glass or two of red and maybe a nightcap of malt.
Not a jingle bell to be heard.