Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Those familiar festive things make it such a wonderful life

So, was it Military Wives or Little Mix? Downton or Strictly? Doctor Who or a re-run of Morcambe and Wise? Yes, there’s always a battle for the No. 1 slot or to be top of the festive TV ratings.

There are so many traditions at this time of year, so many things we do EXACTLY the same way each Christmas, that I suppose there has to be some little competition, just to spice up the otherwise totally predictable Big Day.

It's been such a traumatic year in many ways, it seems people are clinging to the familiar traditions more than ever. The good old reliables are a life jacket in the turbulent seas of uncertainty.

As I get older and each year zips past more quickly than the last, I can't quite believe that we want to see and hear the same old Christmas programmes every single year. Endless tips on how to cook a turkey. It's a turkey, you cook it, haven't we grasped that by now?

There's a massive industry out there devoted to telling us how to do these simple things we do every year.

How to cook the bird, the sprouts, the pudding. How to make table decorations. How to choose wine. How to re-create an old-fashioned Christmas, a modern Christmas. How to be grumpy about Christmas. How to be enthusiastic about Christmas. Every angle's been well-covered many times.

But this year, there's definitely been a sense of nostalgia for the simple familiarity of it all. As the world falls apart economically and we're all in fear of losing our jobs and our ability to buy anything, never mind anything frivolous, the chance to lean on what we know, what we can control, is very appealing.

It's as if, fearing that we're about to lose Christmas, we've suddenly looked at it in a whole new light and become sentimental about it all over again.

Just like several years back when Heinz announced they were stopping producing Salad Cream. Suddenly people who'd never eaten it in years, rushed out and bought up lots of it, just because it brought back happy memories of childhood. The fact that they only used it twice and then it sat, quietly going off, in the fridge, is neither here nor there.

Maybe this is just how it seems to me this year. I've been in a play which is all about Christmas and how what's really important is love and happiness, not having lots of money. Some of that has definitely rubbed off on me. I'm treasuring time with people I love this year, not worrying about whether or not we've bought each other lots of things. Time is the greatest gift.

And there's loads to be grateful for this year. The water's on, the pipes aren't frozen, we're doing better than the Greeks. They're revolting apparently, but we're not so bad.

And we're free. Unlike those poor North Koreans. I mean, if, God forbid, David Cameron were to die, we wouldn't have to rush out onto the streets and wail inconsolably as if someone had just offered us free tickets to a Daniel O'Donnell concert.

So all in all, plenty of reasons to be cheerful. Best of all — we're still here. Enjoy.

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