Getting up at 4.30am, sneaking downstairs with my brothers to see if Father Christmas had arrived with our presents. Heads peer round the door to see four heaps of presents and two smaller piles – Mum and Dad were clearly not well-behaved enough. We would then run back upstairs and sit at the edge of our parent’s bed for hours until we were allowed to start unwrapping our surprises. Luckily for us, this was when children’s television did not start till later in the morning and there is only so much of the teletext music one can take before going insane, so by 6.30 we were sat on the living room floor, wrapping paper flying in every direction while our parents were half asleep on the sofa.
Now I’m older, Christmas almost seems like an anti-climax. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Dad’s Christmas dinners, I wait for them all year round. However, the excitement of opening presents have diminished, the four of us are older so Christmas morning starts much, much later, and as we have grown-up the numbers around the table have began to diminish so it is less of a family reunion and more of a Sunday lunch.
Living in London though, you can’t avoid the Christmas hype. In Southport and Nottingham it is certainly possible to forget it is actually the festive season. I mean heavens waiting room and student central – one group of people aren’t sure what time of the day it is, let alone the time of year, the others are too drunk or hungover to know what’s going on. In Germany, it’s not possible to forget because there is a Christmas market on every corner you turn – but what’s not to love about Bratwurst and Hot Chocolate with Bailey’s? The Germans have got it right! However, London at the best of times can be overwhelming, London at Christmas time..Woah.
So for all those that put up with the festive season, who like to do their shopping online to avoid the Christmas madness, and only put up decorations as close to the 25th as possible here are some ways to enjoy the Christmas spirit in the capital (and elsewhere around the country).
- Avoid Winter Wonderland like the plague. There are other Christmas markets in London (albeit incredibly expensive), but at least you have a chance of getting from the beginning to the end without getting elbowed in the face and trod on so many times you break a few toes.
- Embrace the weather. This winter, especially, has not been too cold in London. So when you go for a walk along the river towards London Bridge, or head out to Wimbledon common, you can enjoy the brisk bite of winter without the snow and feel a lot better for it!
- Do not turn on the radio. There are going to be times during December (and November in some cases) where you are going to have to listen to Christmas tunes. Whether it is in a shop, at work or by the busker in the tube station – this will be unavoidable at some point. So don’t put yourself through the pain of listening to them in your free-time as well!
- Get every group of friends/family anyone that you would normally feel obliged to buy a gift for to participate in ‘Secret Santa’. Not only does this save you a lot of money, but time as well. It also means that when you inevitably leave buying your Christmas presents to the last minute, going in to a shop for one present seems less of a challenge.
- Remember that, although everyone around you is in the Christmas spirit and enjoying the stress and madness of getting things ready for that one special day, you don’t have to be the same! However, you should be aware that you will be judged if you let this fact known to others – so maybe best to smile, nod and keep it under-wraps!
It’s not all bad. It is apparently the season to be jolly and spending little time at home, it is nice to come back for the holidays and enjoy some precious family time before disappearing again – but no doubt in five days time I will be ready to run out of this house and back down to London… Until then though, I will admire the tree with a smile on my face, go shopping for my presents and grin and bear the constant Christmas merriment of those around me!
Bring on January sales…