How are your Christmas preparations going? I don't want to panic you, but we've only got six days left until the biggest day of the year. It may be that many of you are reading this, relaxed in the knowledge that everything is done and dusted, all the presents bought and wrapped and the food prep done - but I'm sure there are others who, like myself, feel that Christmas, which seems to have been on the horizon for such a long time, has suddenly jumped up and into our faces.
Somehow, I have gone from thinking I was well ahead in terms of preparation to realising I am anything but. I think I fell into a false sense of security because I began thinking about Christmas so early this year.
With the world in such a weird and worrying state, I began dreaming back in September about all the festivities and fun December 25 would bring. By the start of October, I had most of our Christmas dinner ordered online from a supermarket and the rest of it on order from our butcher. I had persuaded my children to write out their letters to Santa before we had so much as dug out the sparklers for Halloween, thinking that both the big man from the North Pole and I needed lots of extra present sourcing time as we might not be able to get out to the shops very much.
Sadly, that's turned out to be true. Most of my present-searching has been carried out not on foot but online and the big problem I have is that I'm still waiting for at least half the presents I've ordered to arrive. I've spent huge swathes of the last few days hovering by my living room window, watching in vain for a man in a van to bring me those much-needed parcels. I can feel my stress levels rising, as I search through the bits and bobs that I've gathered up, wondering how I can eke them out to cover everyone on my list. At this rate my poor husband might be getting one-and-a-half pairs of socks as I share out his multipack. Sure he can wear his Christmas stocking on the other foot!
Maybe that's the one thing about this Christmas that's normal. I've never made it to the big day without a rising sense of panic about what still needs to be done. And then as quickly as it comes, it's gone again as Christmas day passes. Isn't it strange to think that this day next week it'll be all but over? Bar, of course, the usual tonne of turkey and mountain of mince pie leftovers that we'll all be trying to munch our way through. It'll be December 26, Boxing Day, St Stephen's Day, whatever you want to call those 24 hours that come after the main event.
As a child, I thought it had been named Boxing Day because it was when the nation collectively attempted to get rid of all the cardboard cubes which had contained our presents. I still have vivid memories of my dad attempting to break down all the boxes and squeeze them into the bin from which they'd spring back out, jack-in-the-box style, the moment he pushed the lid down on top.
I related that childhood notion to a friend who told me that she had come to an altogether more plausible belief on the origins of Boxing Day. She had assumed that it was named as such because it was the one time of the year when tempers in family homes would be most likely to fray, with young siblings trying to take a swing at each other, after 24 hours of being cooped up together and on a sugar come-down from the day before. Thinking back to my childhood, I could remember feeling a bit like this on Boxing Day, especially when my big sister wouldn't let me play with her new toys.
This year, I think my main emotion will be one of gratitude, that I'm lucky enough to be stuck indoors enjoying a family bubble Christmas. I know it's something many of us will never take for granted again.
Merry Christmas to you all and a very happy new year!