To tree or not to tree….that is the festive question.

So this year, for the first time in my adult life, we are not having a Christmas tree. My husband was genuinely not bothered either way (he would actually stop celebrating Christmas entirely if he thought he could get away with it), the ‘kids’ (21, almost 19 and 14) will possibly not switch their technology addicted, vacant gazes from their iPhones long enough to even notice it’s absence and I just could not muster the enthusiasm to once again lug out the same tree, with the same decorations, to place it in the exact same footprint of our home.

This is not laziness on my part, I can assure you, nothing could have been simpler for our Christmas tree was placed in the barn last year, fully decorated and completely covered over to protect it from owl pellets, batshit, cobwebs, the nibbling of mice and anything else that ‘nature’ or as I like to call them; uninvited and unpaying guests in our barn, could throw at it.

It simply needed dragging across the road and unveiling…tah-dah!

But even this simple, pop-up option held little interest to me.

I genuinely can’t find it in me to once again re-organise our lovely living room, since we now have it looking just as we want it, to shoe-horn in this temporary tinsel-infested ornament (well, no, I don’t actually put tinsel on my tree!). Especially considering that our living room is ever so slightly more inhabited than it was the previous year, having acquired several new pieces of furniture/objet d’art, namely a large French alabaster bust of a noble lady and a darling 1950’s cocktail cabinet.  I did think about relocating the ‘tree’ to the dining room, but a similar re-organisation would have been required, and even though on a much lesser scale, my pernicketiness, my OCD, my absolute obstruction to change just will not allow it.

Not to mention, that I really do need to invest in a replacement tree. No amount of gold, glittery baubles, crystal droplets and shimmering snowflakes dripping from it, will make up for the fact that the tree is not as full and impressive as it once was. Just like no amount of backcombing and comb-over will make up for the fact that Donald Trump has practically no hair to speak of. Maybe that’s why he leaves those bright white circles around his crumpled eyes or has practised to perfection, squeezing his mouth together to resemble a cat’s bum, perhaps it’s all just to expertly draw attention from his thinning thatch, this wispy, straw coloured cobweb perched atop his permanent frown and sagging jowls.

Cat’s bums aside, to be honest, I think the ambivalence towards a tree, or indeed Christmas in general really set in last January when after last years rather dull Christmas at home and our equally dull New Year in Bordeaux, I swiftly booked for us all to be in Spain for this Christmas instead. Just to do something different for once. That was booked back on the second of January, as you can see I wasted no time in deliberating it further. Four wonderful days full board in a beachside hotel in Roses Bay, three sea view double rooms, arriving the day before Christmas Eve and leaving the day after Boxing day. What could be more perfect. I could picture it vividly, wrapping up warm and going for mid-morning walks along the beach, having coffee and churros in our favourite beach bar, no cooking, no peeling a mountain of veg, no washing up. Dressing up for evening dinner and having nothing more taxing to do than choosing which bottle of Cava to try first. The wonderful buffets laid on three times a day so that we could all attempt to put on at least half a stone.

Maybe Harry would be daring (aka stupid) enough to have a traditional Boxing Day dip in the sea, to our full amusement. Camera phones at the ready to document each painful inch further into the sea until a wave undoubtedly lapped his more sensitive parts and sent him shrieking out of the water, much to our hilarity.

Alas, it was not to be, shortly after booking the holiday, our adult daughter found new employment in the retail sector and despite that she requested the time off a full 11 months in advance, she was told in no uncertain terms that ABSOLUTELY NO HOLIDAY LEAVE would be granted during the Christmas period since it is their busiest time of year. It was our full expectation that she would likely change jobs again within the year and therefore we kept our fingers crossed and retained our booking which had a free cancellation policy until just a week before. Not that we would be so selfish and thoughtless to actually cancel at such a late stage but I figured that even being as conscientious as we are, that we had a reasonable amount of time to determine if any change in circumstance was probable.

All through the long, unbearably hot summer (remember that?), very little thought was given to Christmas but as Autumn approached and our daughter amazingly continued to be happily employed with the same company and the fact that they had NOT subsequently relented at all on their Christmas holiday rules, I unhappily came to the conclusion that in all reality, our Christmas trip to Spain was not going to happen so rather begrudgingly I proceeded to issue a cancellation in order that the hotel had plentiful time to offer out our three rooms to other clients.

The boys thought I was joking when I told them I had cancelled because their grown sister couldn’t come.

“Why can’t we go without her?” they asked a bit miffed, visions of those wonderful buffets slipping swiftly from view,
“Why can’t she join us a day later?”
Why this….why that…..but I knew they only half meant it. The whole idea to go away was to do something a bit different but also to spend a bit more quality time together as a family, rather than Christmas being just the single day it is now, before everyone is back to work or just back to normality come the 26th of December, and that’s if you are one of the lucky ones that don’t have to work on Christmas Day.

As for Christmas in Spain, well maybe next year or perhaps some other future juncture. It does, however, leave us having another Christmas at home this year and so I have decided that it will be somewhat different to the norm. Please note that I said ‘different’, not necessarily better! Ha Ha Ha.

Starting, of course, with no tree.

Instead of the tree in its usual place, I have decorated our old ships chest with a twinkling garland.

The mantelpiece is adorned with its customary garland and Pepé, of course, wears his Christmas hat. Some traditions just can’t be messed with!

The wreaths still adorn various doors in the home and other decorations are present.

Personally, I like it, it’s still Christmassy but it’s quite understated. Classy! Classmassy…ha ha ha.

My husband and I (for the second year running) have agreed not to buy each other gifts. We tried it last year and it was not anywhere near as depressing or miserable as I thought it might be. In fact, it was somewhat of a relief, quite liberating to not simply continue to do things you have grown accustomed to just for the sheer sake of it.
We are at a point in our lives where we have everything we could possibly want or need, and whilst I would always be able to find a handbag, a pair of shoes or boots or a designer silk scarf that I would dearly love to own, in all honesty, I can’t really say that my life would be enriched with just ‘one more trinket’. I have more handbags than I could possibly use in a lifetime and rows and rows of gorgeous shoes that are just crying out to be worn, needless to say, some of them never have been.
Also, I would much prefer to buy my husband a little surprise gift, just for being wonderful, than to feel pressured into exchanging gifts on a day where it is merely expected.
Goodness, I’m starting to sound like my mother!

Do we all eventually reach this point in life? Where our thoughts regarding keeping up with so-called traditions are far outweighed by the monstrous materialism and commercialism that Christmas has become?

Christmas essentially is for kids and generally little kids at that, when the wonder of it all is still something to be excited by and celebrated.
When your kids grow up and it’s time to stop buying toys and games because they are permanently ensconced in their iPhones, that’s when Christmas starts to become a crock of shit. This year, the ‘kids’ have all expressed an interest in receiving money. One wants to save up for a specific gaming PC, one doesn’t know what they want and one probably just wants to use it as a surrogate ‘income’ in the absence of none other.

So apart from a few little thoughtful gifts that we have bought for them, nothing too big, of course, as they wouldn’t like to think that we have used any sizeable amount of their Christmas budget ‘wasting’ it on things that they didn’t ask for and don’t want, but yes apart from those few small gifts, there will be no other presents in the house.

An absence of a tree, an absence of presents. Good grief what next?
Well, the other change this year is no mammoth roast dinner on Christmas Day.  I know, shocking isn’t it.
In my defence at this brutal culling of yet another tradition, I’m getting fed up of labouring in the kitchen for hours and hours, making huge Christmas dinners; a choice of several starters, a full roast with all the trimmings and a bountiful selection of desserts, all for practically everyone (my husband excluded) to just push it around their plate, be that either because they have already had dinner elsewhere during the day or have lost their appetite due to an overindulgence in chocolates, nuts and anything else they have chosen to spend the whole day grazing through. This year instead, we are having a Christmas Day buffet and saving the big family blow out roast dinner until the following weekend, between Christmas and New Year, that boring lull in between festivities. This ultimately will ensure that it will be far more appreciated and also gets me off the hook for a New Years Day roast, especially now that two out of three of the ‘kids’ are at an age where they have discovered the delights of alcohol and New Years Day roasts are subsequently now threatened with hideous NYE hangovers, my own included!

So there we have it, a much more simplified Christmas this year, less stressful, less expectation of perfection, potentially a whole lot less disappointing.

As they say, less is more dahhhling, less is definitely more!

That’s not to say that we have less Christmas spirit this year….
Not at all, we have it in abundance.
Vodka, Gin, Bourbon, Port, countless bottles of bubbly. You name it, we’ve got it.
Which only leaves me to wish Christmas cheer(s) to you all.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

The Virtual Recluse

Bottoms Up!







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