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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 08-Dec-16 18:01:40

Christmas spirit or Christmas pressure?

Author Patricia Scanlan muses on the pressure, not only of hosting the big day, but of making sure that the magic of Christmas prevails - especially for the younger members of the family.

Patricia Scanlan

Christmas spirit or Christmas pressure?

Posted on: Thu 08-Dec-16 18:01:40


Lead photo

Do you find Christmas exhausting?

Yesterday, while driving to visit my ninety year old dad in hospital, my thirteen year old niece who was with me said gaily 'I can’t wait for Christmas. I'm getting so excited.'

My sister and I have been trying to ignore the looming event, knowing that plans have to be made, logistics have to be worked out and frankly there's going to be a lot of hassle. Since my mother passed away nine years ago we've taken it in turns to host Christmas. Last year it was my turn. We've had a tradition of a family breakfast in my parents' house, after church, with all my siblings and the grandchildren, and whoever is on 'cooks' for the dinner eats and runs.

Last year I had been up since the crack of dawn stuffing the turkey, preparing the veg and all the prep that goes with the Christmas dinner. My lovely mother used to say that Christmas was a 'work-up'. She much preferred Easter. I never quite understood what she meant until that first time that the full responsibility for the Christmas Dinner rested with me.

Making sure the turkey is cooked to the bone but still moist. Crisping the roasties but ensuring that they aren't rock hard. Adding just enough meat juices and sherry to the gravy to give it that 'Christmassy' taste. And don't talk to me about those blinking mushy peas that invariably boil over in a green frothy mess if you take your eyes off them for one second, while making sure the sprouts haven't turned into pulp!

I was just looking forward to the secret relief of not having the responsibility of the whole palaver.

Thank God it's not my turn this year, I remember thinking a few months ago before my dad had a fall that has left him fairly banjaxed. I had pushed thoughts of Christmas to the back of my mind until my niece mentioned it. And slowly it dawned on me that because Dad is now in a wheelchair or on his 'four wheel drive' mobility yoke, my sister's house is much less compatible than mine to his mobility needs.

It looks like I'll be doing Christmas again this year. My heart sank to my boots at the realisation, even though I won't be alone in the kitchen, and everyone will muck in. I was just looking forward to the secret relief of not having the responsibility of the whole palaver.

But I've given myself a stern talking to. My parents gave us the best of Christmases and went to so much trouble for the six of us. My niece is entirely right to look forward to the season with sparkling eyes and high anticipation. My memories of Christmas when I was her age were all good. Full of family festivities, fun with my friends, presents under the tree, books to read in bed while nibbling on chocolate covered almonds for breakfast, knowing I didn't have to get up for school for two whole weeks.

She will have the Christmas she's so looking forward to and I will give the day my all and collapse in a heap when it's over and comfort myself with chocolate almonds, a good book and a stiff G&T. Happy Christmas all.

A Gift For You by Patricia Scanlan is published by Simon & Schuster and available from Amazon.

By Patricia Scanlan

Twitter: @SimonSchusterUK

whitewave Thu 08-Dec-16 18:12:22

People do seem to make mountains out of mole hills. All it is, is a lovely roast dinner but with decorations and presents. What's all the fuss about? Stop moaning and thank your lucky stars that at our age you are still up and running, you have sufficient means to enjoy said Christmas and people like you enough to spend Christmas Day with you.

annodomini Thu 08-Dec-16 19:07:27

Well said, whitewave.

bellsisabelle Thu 08-Dec-16 19:18:16

Was she moaning? I didn't read it like that. I think it's a lovely post. We do it for our children and grandchildren because it was done for us. tchsmile

bellsisabelle Thu 08-Dec-16 19:21:32

The book is reminiscent of short stories in Womans Weekly though.

whitewave Thu 08-Dec-16 19:22:07

Yes I take you point bell but it sort of implies that people will moan if you know what I mean confused

Rinouchka Thu 08-Dec-16 19:40:04

Really, it boils down to the pressure that the cook/host feels regarding being the one responsible for feeding and entertaining " guests" albeit family members.
I think the poster has worked herself up into such an unnecessarily anxious state. Christmas does not need to be much more than a big Sunday lunch or birthday get together. Surely the sister can help with the catering?
I agree with whitewave but also sense that the poster is not used to catering for a family. Perhaps the niece is the only child within the group?
Why not just buy everything ready prepared from M&S and enjoy being together, playing games and building more good memories.
It seems frivolous to stress about Christmas. Save the stress and anxieties for real worries!

Ana Thu 08-Dec-16 19:46:27

The blogger (an author) hosted Christmas last year and was hoping not to this year - the only reason she is doing is because her dad's fall means her sister's house is not easily accessible for him.

So I agree with whitewave - she's complaining unnecessarily and as she admits, she'll have loads of help in the kitchen. What is her problem...?

merlotgran Thu 08-Dec-16 19:59:21

Why can't she do most of the prep on Christmas Eve? Like whitewave said, It's just a big roast.

My mother used to delegate as much as she possibly could which meant Dad and I did most of the cooking then she'd tell everyone she'd been slaving away to give everyone a lovely Christmas. We used to call her gross exaggerations LOOFAs - Load of Old Fanny Adams. grin

M0nica Fri 09-Dec-16 16:33:20

Once again another GN blog from someone working themselves into a flurry over nothing because they have something to sell.

I have twice moved house in the weeks before Christmas, once with a 2 year old and a babe-in-arms. The other time with DP staying at short notice. As Whitewave says it is a just a roast dinner with decorations. Apart from breakfast I do not go near the kitchen or Christmas lunch until mid-day because the meal has all been prepared well in advance, the turkey is in an oven with a delay cook function so it usually turns itself on before I am out of bed. We are a mundane family that asks its members to provide wish lists for presents to make shopping easier, with no one of any age expecting to get everything on their list.

As a person who tends to be well organised and refuses to apologise for it. I get fed up with the disorganised martyring themselves in a disorganised flurry and then expecting to get revered as a saint for their exhaustion.

Mumsy Sat 10-Dec-16 09:22:03

Patricia Scanlan wants to think herself lucky shes got people to spend xmas with, stop whinging and get over it, theres hundreds having to spend xmas on their own who would love to prepare xmas but they have no one to prepare for!!

inishowen Sun 11-Dec-16 09:29:38

I can't believe how mean some of you are to Patricia Scanlan. (By the way, she's a brilliant author) I feel just like her. My hubby does the cooking and I see him get more and more stressed as the morning goes on. He always says something nasty to me, which upsets me for the rest of the day. This is real life. The younger members of the family lie around all day waiting for us to serve them. I wish it was over.

Marmight Sun 11-Dec-16 10:35:05

OH dear hmm. Is there any reason she has to take on this onerous task all alone? Couldn't the niece be put to preparing the veggies and the sister help with the puds - or whatever? They all a seem to live within spitting distance of each other, including Dad. I would give anything to be so close to my family. Christmas is what you make it and Christmas dinner is just an over large roast which is the easiest meal in the world to prepare! Get Waitrose to deliver if it's such a chore or book a restaurant with wheelchair facilities. Bah, Humbug - and a very Merry Christmas to you too tchgrin

Swanny Sun 11-Dec-16 11:05:53

My flat is not really big enough for entertaining at Christmas and I dislike spending time in the kitchen when my guests are chilling and chatting, so last time I did a meal for more than two I bought it ready prepared. All the dishes were ready to cook with timings and temperature instructions for oven and microwave. Everything was included, it was delicious and all I was left with were the compliments of my guests and the washing up. Even that was less than expected as I managed to drop 2 plates when clearing away tchgrin

granjura Sun 11-Dec-16 12:15:23

For the first time ever, we will be on our own at Christmas. We were invited to a lovely Danish couple with 2 young children, to join his dad over with his GF - but as we can't get a B&B or Hôtel nearby, we have made our excuses. OH is not a big drinker, but not having a drink at Christmas with the others would be a shame.

In fact, I am quite excited at being on our own - we are not putting up decorations or a tree either - only next door at Ye Olde Parish room for the elderly Xmas lunch on 20th.

Got a young visitor from UK with her 10 year old son from the 27th (friends of DD1 we know well and who is on her own) - and I'm sure they won't mind. We will be out having fun in the snow every day, or go to spas, go skating on the lake, etc (well not me- for the first time I'll be watching from side with a 'vin chaud' in my hand ...).

Find it quite liberating in a way - I've cooked for so many in the past - this time it will be salmon, rib of beef with veggies and roasties, and my Anglo-Swiss fusion trifle, with black cherries and kirsch- and a few mince pies if I can be asked (that's the was I spell it ;) ). Bring it on.

Knowing me, we will soon meet some people who are on their own and it will turn into a big lunch and party, à la Jura- but if it doesn't -fine. Joyeux Noël.

Bellanonna Sun 11-Dec-16 12:40:06

The fusion trifle sounds delicious. Actually your Christmas sounds quite appealing too. It conjures up a Christmas card scene. Boun Natale to you too. ??

Bebe47 Tue 13-Dec-16 11:11:28

Just say No if you can't do it or tell sister and everyone else to bring something ready orepared to add to the meal.
Why should one person be responsible for everyones Christmas lunch anyway - if it's a family it should be shared - and the cost. Don't let one person bear the stress of cooking for large numbers'and spoiling their dsy.
I am now nearly 70 and cooked nearly every Christmas for years for our own family of 6 and my Mother who was on her own and stayed over. Nowadays Mum has Christmas Day lunch in her care home where they do a lovely spread and have a jolly time, and which she enjoys, we can relax more. My sons have their own families now and so my husband and I have a small roast beef lunch on our own - easier instead of all the trimmings that go with turkey. We then have my Mum and anyone else up between Christmas and New Year - we alternate years with my sister and have a cold compilation of things bought in. Works well.

Anya Tue 13-Dec-16 11:25:23

Methinks this lady needs to chill and realise it's only a glorified Sunday dinner. I host Christmas dinner most years; see me getting up at dawn to start?

Not on your Nelly smile

bellsisabelle Tue 13-Dec-16 11:39:04

Do you really do homemade stuffing, homemade bread sauce, pigs in blankets plus chipolatas, and a turkey for normal Sunday dinner? And serve a traditional pud that has to be boiled for three hours?! Not to mention the giblet gravy. And all those sodding sprouts to prepare. And carrots (roast or steam?) shock

I'm sorry to tell you this, but Xmas dinner is hugely stressful. And hard work.

All credit to the lady that she's determined to put on a good show, mostly for the sake of her beloved niece.

bellsisabelle Tue 13-Dec-16 11:39:58


Jalima Tue 13-Dec-16 11:51:58

We used to do this years ago, one of us would do Christmas Day and another New Year's Day.
I used to prepare everything the day before - and DH always peeled all the veg apart from the sprouts. Make the giblet gravy ready to re-heat and everything else is ready to pop into the oven, steamer etc. on Christmas Day.

The trifle is better made the day before anyway; the pudding goes into the slow cooker first thing so doesn't take up a ring on the hob.

I wish all our family lived close by so that we could entertain them all together again, how lucky you are Patricia.

Jalima Tue 13-Dec-16 11:53:57

Do you really do homemade stuffing, homemade bread sauce, pigs in blankets plus chipolatas

Of course I do, although M&S food is quite good (so I've heard blush)
They do red cabbage too

GillT57 Tue 13-Dec-16 12:15:32

For heavens sake it is just a roast dinner albeit with a few extras. On Christmas Eve, we sit at the kitchen table with a bottle of wine and prepare the veg, pigs in blankets and put in water/in fridge as applicable. I buy good quality stuffing from butcher or M & S. Does anyone seriously have those monster turkeys anymore? We are 7 for dinner and will have turkey joint plus beef. Pudding is trifle prepared the night before, or cheese and biscuits. The magazines with their photographs of beautiful families gathered around a magnificent table have a lot to answer for. Just relax, get prepared the night before, and enjoy, being thankful that you have a family and friends who want to spend time together. Many dont have this.

bellsisabelle Tue 13-Dec-16 12:16:39

What - you do all that for a normal Sunday roast? Wow!

NanaandGrampy Tue 13-Dec-16 13:51:40

If it's sooooo stressy ...don't do it !!

Luckily , my lot don't come for the food they come for the company, the love, the memories !!

I certainly don't make pigs in blankets ( life's too short !) . I can turn out a creditable spread and if the gravy has lumps ...I sieve it smile

My puddings come from M and S ,no one ever struggled with a cheese board! Oh, and the alcohol flows freely so by tea time no one gives a stuff.

That's what I call a perfect Christmas !