‘I love Christmas, but not the pressure to create lifelong perfect memories’

Jen Hogan: The best festive memories are made of something simple, unfussy but definitive

And so this is Christmas. At last!

I love Christmas. I’ve always loved Christmas, except for a period of a few years when I hated it, but now I love it again. Thankfully. Because you must love Christmas. Otherwise, you’re the Grinch and people will tell you that you secretly love Christmas. Even when you clearly hate it. And maybe even ignore why you hate it. Even if it was only for a short time.

Because not liking Christmas makes other people uncomfortable. It’s the most wonderful time of the year, after all. Sure, that’s probably why they wrote the song.

Anyway, I love Christmas.


What I don’t love, is the pressure of Christmas; the often self-imposed pressure, granted, to create these perfect moments and perfect Christmas traditions. And not just insta-perfect (though that’s what we’ll likely compare our moments to) but lifelong happy memories that the children will want to recreate when they live away from home or have children of their own.

Because that’s ultimately the measure of how perfect your childhood Christmases were – how keen you are to try to recreate those moments yourself, in adulthood. And you will judge your success as a parent tasked with creating magical Christmases, by similar standards.

So, I shouldn’t have found myself surprised at my delight to discover that my recently moved-out daughter had decided to put multicoloured lights on the Christmas tree in her apartment. After all, this is what she grew up with, even when it was trendy to have white lights. Plus, I bought them for her.

But I did, in my defence, give her the receipt and the option to change them for white ones. And she decided she didn’t want to. She wanted multicoloured fairy lights, just like at home. She has great plans to have matchy-matchy decorations on her tree. Her youngest brothers and their homemade and school-made decorations will put paid to that.

Neither should I have been so surprised at my delight to receive a text as she decorated the tree with her boyfriend which read: “I understand now mum, why you never let dad put the lights on the tree. A has tried to help and I told him, ‘step away from the lights’.”

It’s just how it is, you see. Women do the lights. Men make the tea. So it is and so it always has been. Well, since 1997 anyway.

Her lights look perfect.

These are the Christmas traditions I never paid much heed to until I saw them replicated. The ones that just happened automatically without being forced or even being specifically created. As opposed to the ones that involved compromise, and when I say compromise, what I probably mean is that one of us compromised and it wasn’t me. The great compromise of 2001, as it’s known around these parts. Okay it’s not, but the column was just going that way. Anyway, ‘twas in 2001 that I learned Santa doesn’t wrap the presents he brings to everyone’s house.

Yes, if you grew up in a house like mine, you’re likely as shocked as I was by that information. I was convinced himself was remembering incorrectly. “What do you mean Santa didn’t wrap your presents? Santa wraps all the presents,” I clarified.

But he wasn’t remembering incorrectly and so it came to pass that I learned you had to put in a special request if you want Santa to wrap the presents he brings to your house. And so it also came to pass that such a request was made to Santa, without considering that one day Santa might be asked to wrap for seven children at this house. But sure look, isn’t that all part of the Christmas mayhem and overwhelm in the name of making perfect memories?

The same overwhelm that we often don’t acknowledge because it’s the most wonderful time of the year — (sing it Andy!). And yet as I spoke to fellow parents about the upcoming festivities, overwhelm plagued their replies. From financial worries to family politics, to present shopping, to guilt about not being able to be in two places at the same time, to worries about alcohol and loved ones, to grief, to illness, to the intensity of the season, to worries about presents, and the pressure to have the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s a lot really. But wonderful is subjective and fluid anyway. And sometimes, it’s something as simple as tree lights that memories are built on.

So whatever way you do Christmas, have the best one you can. And remember, this time next week that bloody elf will be gone.

So, there’s that.