On Festive Buildup

It’s less than five weeks till Christmas. Now that I’ve shocked you, I’ll say I’ve noticed that this week there’s been something festive in the air, and I’m not just talking about the various colds going around. It’s certainly got to me, and as the week’s worn on I’ve felt more and more Christmassy. Perhaps it started with my gloves getting their first outing on Tuesday, or making the Christmas cake on Wednesday, or my confusion when I went into a well-known high street chemists in search of lunch and tissues, only to find the familiar store layout replaced by aisles upon aisles of garishly wrapped bath sets, accompanied by the Yuletide war-cry that is Mariah Carey. Whatever it was, I knew I was on the verge of being merry when I found myself on the bus humming “One more Sleep till Christmas” from A Muppet Christmas Carol.

If you don’t find the Muppets adorable, then I’m afraid there’s no hope for you.

I’m aware that not everyone likes to be subjected to the festive spirit at this time of year. One friend in particular hates seeing anything Christmas-related before the first of December: once we went shopping in September and I was sure she was going to explode in an indignant humph so narked was she by seeing Christmas things in what was essentially summer. I myself was rather amused by the local Rector showing us photos of a light-up nativity scene he’d found in a garden centre in early October (to say nothing of the “Flashing Jesus” which I accidentally misunderstood). And I’m not going to start on the overly-saccharine TV ads for well-known department stores that pop up around this time of year to remind us Christmas is a time for family, love, and expensive crap no-one wanted. By this stage, however, I think it’s legitimate to start getting a little excited. As I said, this week my Dad and I mixed together and baked the Christmas cake. This has become a family tradition over the years, though we used to make the cake earlier, in the October school half-term to give the rich fruit mixture more time to mature before icing in the week before Christmas. My Dad always left the creaming of the sugar and butter to me, ostensibly because I’ve inherited his family’s strong wrists, but also so I could eat bits of the mix without getting caught (I think). Over the last three years it didn’t feel at all strange getting festive at this time in November: at Cambridge, where the term ended at the start of December, we celebrated “Bridgemas” in the last week of November with carol services, handing out cards, and Christmas parties. All my mates at other universities thought we were completely mad, of course. I do love a good carol service, and was rather spoilt for choice at Cambridge, where there were so many college chapels and churches running events. It’s one regret of mine that I could never organise a proper “Carol Crawl” – like a pub crawl, but visiting several services on one night, belt out the old songs and help mesel to a mince pie afterwards.

Artist's impression of me and my "little mince pie problem".

Artist’s impression of me and my “little mince pie problem”.

This year, anyway, my plan is that if I start getting excited now, I might be organised and have presents and things sorted before the 24th December. If anything, I may get my Christmas cards written on time. That’s another traditional thing I like doing, which you may find unusual in this day and age, but I’m a fan of the charm of snail-mail. The next festive thing on the cards is the switching on of the town Christmas lights this Saturday and its associated craft fair. I will of course be there, and I think that’s when I’ll completely give in to the festive spirit. So if you’re in Northumberland, and you see a girl in a penguin hat grinning broadly and possibly dancing a little, don’t worry, that’s me just smile understandingly and wave. Especially if I’m singing something about there being “Thirty-three more Sleeps till Christmas”. A form of this article originally appeared on Cam FM’s Radio Weekly, presented by Daniel Edward. To find out more about him and his magnificent shirts, go here.

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