Building up to Christmas

Sunday 30th October, 2022

The faint smells of mulled wine and spruce tree pines have begun to circulate around my home once more. The normally empty book shelves are filled with snow globes, toy elves and other festive knick knacks. The Norwegian Spruce stands proud in the corner in all of its festive glory, dominating the room with its golden tinsel and crimson baubles. Festive season is most definitely upon us. As you walk outside you can feel the cold winter air has filled with joyous energy once again. People are all buzzing around radiating Christmas spirit, as they struggle to grab the last packet of pigs in blankets. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year!

I have heard many takes on Christmas over the years both good and bad. Some people love it to see the look on their kids' faces on Christmas morning, whilst others detest it as it just reminds them of how lonely they are. So let me offer you a different take today and write about the build up to Christmas, as opposed to just writing about December 25th, family time and Santa; as let's face it that's all had more coverage than the World Cup.

The build up to Christmas for me is the best part. The Christmas Markets, the Christmas music and all of those hallmark Christmas movies about a girl that moves to a small town and falls in love with an aloof man that actually turns out to have a massive heart. I love the decoration of every room of the house, from the reindeer crockery in the kitchen, to the tartan blankets in the bedroom, to the bright lights of the tree in the living room. I even love the eight foot inflatable Santa Claus that I always insist takes pride of place on my front lawn every year. I just love the atmosphere and how for one month a year the rules completely change. For example, if you want to play a song on repeat, go for it, wear the same festive jumper for the whole month of December, crack on, eat an entire box of chocolates in one sitting, even better. It's a lawless and exciting time.

It has been hard over the past couple of years to enjoy the build up to Christmas during the pandemic as Christmas Markets have been cancelled and rules on visiting loved ones have been enforced. It hasn't only been the personal build up that has been affected, but the workplace build up too. Christmas jumper day, Christmas quizzes, and even the Christmas party, were all either cancelled or made virtual. And for me a virtual Christmas party really takes the shine off of it, as I don't know about you, but for me sitting and drinking with work colleagues in front of a laptop at 6pm making work themed cocktails for a 'Christmas Party', just doesn't feel the same to me as us all having a meal together and dancing around to Last Christmas by Wham! (no this doesn't count as getting Whamagendened). That's the real reason I like the build up to Christmas as it brings unity, comradery and community.

The best part of the post pandemic build up for me will be Christmas Markets. From attending that first one in December, where I pick out the tree and decorate my car with green spruce pines, that I will find throughout the year, to the last one on Christmas Eve where I slur a very bad rendition of 'Merry Christmas Everyone'. I love the small town ones too in early December, where you can play raffles and tombolas and win the strangest prizes, like a single bottle of J20. And of course we can't forget the trip to a city with friends to explore a Christmas Market that is so vast it seems like its own village full of little gingerbread houses selling decorative baubles and hot chocolate. I am excited to have all of that back this year, but I did still manage to enjoy my build up in the pandemic.

My favourite part of the build up during the pandemic had to be Secret Santa, because it was one of the only aspects of the build up to improve. In case you are yet to participate in the joys of workplace Secret Santa let me enlighten you as to how it works. Secret Santa normally begins by an email circulating at work in early November seeing who wants to join in, then names are picked from a hat (I'm pretty sure the organiser arranges awkward pairings for their own entertainment), a budget is set, and a gift giving date is arranged. This is normally a Friday in December, which half of the people participating have kindly managed to book off. For a gift you then normally get some sort of combination of chocolate or alcohol and a gift from someone's re-gift drawer, but you participate and say thank you anyway as it's all in good fun.

So how did this change during the pandemic? Well I sent around my November email to organise it, had some replies, set the budget and set up a virtual teams meeting for an exchange. Then my mind started to think about the gifts; as in this economy a bottle of wine is going to cost more to post than to buy. I had a look on the internet for inspiration and ideas and I came across this website, 'Things to get me'. On this website you could create a list of things that you wanted and even attach links to other websites for specific items on your list. Perfect. Maybe this year I would actually get something I liked, as opposed to Janice from accounts buying me yet another Baylis and Harding gift set. The day of the exchange came and I actually got what I wanted, FitBit straps. It seemed that everyone else had too, as there was not a single Lynx gift set in sight. In fact I don't think I'd ever seen as much genuine happiness from a Secret Santa before. People's faces were lighting up and smiles were going from ear to ear. It was a truly magical day in the build up to Christmas.

In my opinion, the build up is underrated. To not enjoy and skip the build up is like skipping to the end of the movie to see the final scene, you just wouldn't do it. Instead you want to enjoy the journey of the film, as it often contains the best bits. To me that is the build up as it contains all of the best bits, from the cheesy songs, to the Christmas Markets, and silly workplace traditions. This year whether you love or loathe Christmas I invite you to really enjoy the atmosphere and the build up throughout December, as I am confident that no matter what your feelings are towards Christmas, a film, a hot chocolate, or even a decoration will give you a smile in the magical month of December.

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