The Politics of Christmas

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this festive period is often fraught with care issues. (don’t forget you can book back-up care for your elderly relatives through us)

But back to me! Half my family aren’t even Christian, yet they still need to be looked after and want to be invited somewhere for ‘the big day’. It’s the ultimate in ‘Family F.O.M.O.’ So there are step-relatives, care homes, mobility, toilet and dietary issues all to be considered and that just the elderly rellies – I’m not even talking about the vegan teen and the pescatarian lodger – well she’s on her own so I didn’t want her to feel lonely.

Despite all these considerations, I’m hosting this year. I got in early as I’d rather cook in my own home and have everyone over – fraught as it may be – than have to traipse up to Shropshire or eat my Christmas dinner in a care home.

Also, this way, I get to tick both the grandparental boxes: I can look after my in-laws and my mum who’s on her own at the same time. Being a full decade younger than the in-laws, this proposition has to be sold carefully to my mother – they’re not natural bedfellows, so the pitch is that I need my mum to help with ‘the out-laws’ as we call them. This explanation works. The in-laws accept too – thanking us for the thoughtful invite. Everyone ok so far.

But all that was a month ago – tensions are now on the rise. Last year mother-in-law publicly abdicated her role as chief Christmas-pud maker and I’m left trying to dodge that mantle or I’ll have it forevermore. I’m probably already behind schedule anyway even if I wanted to start making one, plus I have nowhere to store a bowl of currants and raisins for weeks on end. In addition, I really don’t have the inclination – what’s wrong with a Tesco Finest pud at around £10 and one click away? (ok - don’t answer that).

The rest is also fraught with tension. Father-in-law has pledged the crackers. I used to make them (now those are fun to create), but it’s a pleasure I’ve reluctantly relinquished on account of his grand gesture. A minor snag being that last year, due to progressing dementia he totally forgot and I had to race out at the last minute to scour random local shops for the dregs of the crop. The burning question this year is do I purchase back-up crackers or just go with the flow and purchase some emergency poppers? In a world full of critical decisions and important problems this presents a properly first world conundrum!

He’s a good guest on the day though, as he will, undoubtedly, spend the whole time in one chair, eating whatever’s served up with relish, despite (or in spite of) the type 2 diabetes and the hardest working shirt buttons in the south.

Meanwhile sister-in-law has a minor hump as we’ve not seen her enough this year – a problem I’m hoping to alleviate with a glass of two of bubbly and a good natter while stirring the gravy.

The meal is always filled with angst as mother-in-law opts for her early-plate clear up routine, one year starting to whisk away everyone’s plates before I’d even sat down. Hours and hours of cooking swept up after 10 minutes of eating. We’ve told her this year we’ll tell her when we’re ready to clear and if she feels up to it, her help would be lovely and much appreciated.

Then there’s the Queen’s speech – but let’s not go there. Well, in fact, some of us will and some of us will object – thankfully we have a smaller room where the abstainers can huddle and grumble, while the rest listen, comment and banter with Her Majesty.

We’ll see how it all goes, but despite all of the above, I can’t help but be excited. I genuinely love the idea of a family Christmas gathering even if the reality always slightly disappoints or is different to the aspiration.

The truth is I know how lucky we are to have these quirky, forgetful, funny (not always intentionally) people in our lives and it genuinely is a pleasure to host them and a challenge of the best sort to try to make it as warm and festive as possible.

I feel so blessed to have them – because I know so many people don’t and I also know also how awful it is to have lost one of them already.