Ways to make it magical, Plan for your best Christmas ever, Cook the perfect turkey, How to make perfect mince pies, Make the best Christmas decorations ever, Perfect cranberry sauce every time, Choosing the perfect present, Perfect wrapping ….and so on.
Newspapers, women’s magazines, television adverts, websites…there’s no let up. It just has to be perfect. One magazine offers several pages of advice for wrapping the perfect presents professionally and then gives detailed instructions on how to make four different types of bow: pom pom, chrysanthemum, tiered and two tone. And this is just one small part of Christmas. Good Housekeeping tells us on one hand how important it is to minimise stress at Christmas and then, in the next breath, how to give the Christmas table wow-factor. Why does the table need wow-factor? We like it to look nice, of course, but why the implication that without ‘wow’ it will somehow be less valid? I could come up with a hundred examples of similarly unnecessary pressures.
I’ve been in the game far too long to imagine that perfection is an achievable state or that Christmas will be an enormous flop if I don’t fold my napkins in the shape a sleigh complete with several reindeer. But I do remember how it felt as a new mum to be swept along with the notion that it was my responsibility to ensure that everything was wonderful – the tree chosen for it’s superior shape, beautifully decorated and perfectly positioned. If anything went wrong then Christmas would be a complete failure and it would be my fault. If only someone had told me IT DOESN’T MATTER! No-one should be should they be made to feel inadequate because their family Christmas doesn’t match up to the glossy ads or feature articles.
Things haven’t changed, it seems. Mumsnet, the website aimed at young mums, suggests that gifts such as bath bombs, soap and candles can easily be handmade (presumably to save the stress of shopping for them)! Just another job to add to the endless list. It also says that picking berries in autumn for your flavoured Christmas gin is a good idea. Because Christmas couldn’t be perfect if you didn’t do that, of course!
BUPA commissioned research found that that three-quarters (74%) of people find Christmas stressful, and that the pressure of making it perfect is a leading cause. Furthermore, according to the New Statesman, domestic violence peaks over the festive period. There seems little doubt that the financial pressures and stresses of creating perfection shoulder much of the blame.
I’ve deliberately left this comment until the end because my key objection is to the call for perfection rather than concentrating on the rampant sexism that so often goes with it, but I do wonder many men’s magazines exhort them to make Christmas magical or offer instruction for making the crispiest roast potatoes or the most beautifully laid table (with homemade centerpieces, of course)!