A few days ago I received a catalogue from a home interiors company (that shall remain nameless!) The centrefold that caught my eye was one entitled, 'a Fairytale Christmas'. Delicate gold fairylights trailed around the branches of a snow-covered tree, beneath which was the festive table, adorned with candles, wine and Scandi-style fabrics. The seating too, was beautiful, with co-ordinating cushions placed perfectly in order to complete this Christmas scene. The aim was clear, and one we are all familiar with - that advertisers tap into our hopes, desires and aspirations, in order to sell their products.
My initial reaction this time shocked me a little. I felt an unease which has stayed with me and prompted me to write this blog. It all looks so perfect, ready for the perfect Christmas dinner to rival all other Christmases. Yet in this image, no-one has arrived. The scene creates an expectation of the kind of Christmas we are presented with in films and fairytales.
What happens when Auntie Maud arrives and begins berating Uncle Morris? What happens when old tensions rise across the table and you feel that familiar dread that Christmas might be derailed once again? What happens when other forces come into play?
In short, what happens when the people show up? Suddenly, any amount of planning is thrown into jeopardy, and our idealised version of Christmas disappears out of view. The cushions are moved, the wine is spilt and we can be left feeling unappreciated, frustrated and exhausted.
Now I may be sounding like my next sentence is going to involve the word 'humbug!' at some point in it (indeed, it just has!) but that is not the direction in which I am heading. What concerns me, is the weight of expectation during the festive season. It can come from all angles - from our childrens' excessively tech-laden Christmas list down to our own fundamental beliefs about how Christmas should or shouldn't be.
So my festive message is to ease off on the 'shoulds', embrace the chaos, enjoy your guests in all their upredictability and care a little less about appearances. Now where did I put those napkins with the embroidered Robins on them?