“We’re going to have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f--king Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's going to find the jolliest bunch of a-holes this side of the nuthouse.”
- Clark Griswold, National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
Ahh, Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year when all the joy and peace is, in reality, swapped for manufactured cheer, difficult relatives and bickering over who's driving.
This is the season which has all the ingredients necessary for some pretty momentous fallouts – tight spaces; afternoons spent boozing; spiking sugar levels (which then drop to make room for all that cheese); enforced family fun; overtired, hyper children, junked up on remote control cars and selection boxes.
And the lead up to the big day is just as much of a minefield.
Here are the 12 fights of Christmas you might recognise.
1. Getting the tree
You’ve heard of FOMO but have you heard of FOBO – fear of a better option? The litany of choices and that panic that we might have to leave something behind can paralyze our decision-making.
When it comes to picking out the tree it doesn’t get any more FOBO than this. This one, no… wait, that one. Hang on… this is perfect. No, wait, what about this little guy? No, too bushy. This one.
What should have been a pleasant afternoon choosing a tree to decorate with tinsel and cheer has become a frenzied search for the holy grail of firs, pooh-poohing each other’s meagre choices and falling further and further into the FOBO rabbit hole.
2. The Christmas lights
This is followed by a tense two hours of one of you trying unsuccessfully to unravel the giant knot of colourful stars while the other shrugs and suggests you pop to Woodies for another set. The mindset is admirable.
We teach our children to never give up, but there is an exception to every rule. And when it comes to the lights that adorn the Christmas tree, know when to walk away. Just. Walk. Away.
3. Putting up the tree
First, you fight about the place to put your tree of dreams. Then you have to battle it into the house, without scratching your walls: ‘Don’t let any pine needles go on the floor’ you implore, entirely aware you are asking the impossible.
Next, your loved-one wrestles the tree into place while you direct operations from the couch. Left a bit, right, down a bit, left, left… PIVOT. You are even annoying yourself by the end of the entire fiasco.
On the upside, you have a glowing beauty of a tree sitting prettily in the corner.
4. Who’s doing Christmas?
Your soul mate should understand that you want to spend the day at your parent’s house in Kildare. Meanwhile, his family is expecting you in Cork on the 24th. Mistletoe won’t solve this dilemma.
Taking turns is probably the grown-up thing to do when you are coupled up and trying to keep everyone happy. And because in the spirit of Christmas and goodwill, you should be the bigger person. But in reality, sulking is the only sensible option to get your own way. Happy wife, happy life, amirite?
5. Clash of calendars
Your friends have invited you both for a once-yearly Christmas dinner. His football friends are having their night out. This isn’t going to end well.
'Tis the season to go out and get merry, or in some cases, obliterated. There is always one who will overdo it at their Christmas work party. Hangover hell aside, this is the time of the year disagreements over minor differences or niggles at work spill over into a crescendo of emotions (usually because of the vat of mulled wine you’ve consumed).
If you haven’t told Eoin from accounts that you have a crush on him or passively-aggressively insulted Sue's poor choice of venue for the night out, is it even Christmas?
7. Excuse ME!
So you didn't get your way this time and you find yourself in the dragon's lair of your in-laws' this year. You’ve spent the car journey hissing to your loved one not to leave you alone with that one particular person, that relative who gets up in your grill.
And then you get cornered. And your loyal life-partner is miraculously oblivious to your wide-eyed ‘look’, that rescue-me-now-please face you’ve been practising most of your life together just isn’t working.
You put on your other face, the you-are-now-dead-to-me face and ignore them for the rest of the day (or at least for the next 15 minutes until you really need him to bring you another glass of egg nog). Priorities.
8. The gifts
You've spent all year researching and then dropping subtle hints (sending them screen-shots of the exact item they should be saving up for) and then on Christmas day they decide to go rogue with some bright off-piste idea. Avoid any dangerous creativity by organising to exchange gifts in the run-up to Christmas so you don’t get any nasty shocks.
Of course, you could always end up with something even better than you were expecting…
(Insert loud, cynical laughter here.)
You present him with The Gift. You know, the one you’ve been plotting for weeks. You’ve spent all your wages, driven miles to collect it from ‘oversized’ packaging hell, and lovingly wrapped its horrifically awkward edges in the prettiest wrapping paper you could find.
He flashes a smile and says thanks. But that isn’t good enough for you, is it? You’ve been watching too many Hallmark Christmas movies, haven't you? Mistake number one, you were expecting a girl's reaction; tears in the eyes, a gasp of breath, a little shriek and a huge violent hug of joy.
You get irrationally annoyed by their gentle appreciation.
You make mistake number two, you niggle at them for more emotion, better reactions, you ask if they really like it? Are you sure? I can change it. Do you really like it? Really?
Until finally, you can’t help yourself and you admit you are upset that they didn’t get excited enough. The moment is ruined, you look like a total psycho, well done.
10. Santa dads
Ask most dads what they spend on Santa presents and they will mention a laughable amount. Many simply have no idea that mum has been pre-stashing the stocking items all year, hiding bigger ticket items and silently plotting to give your offspring the most wonderful day of the year. To avoid fights, just plod on and allow them to live in their own financial fantasy bubble.
11. Putting together the stuff
Nothing says love like building a toy kitchen at midnight on Christmas Eve after a bottle of wine. But it will bring you to the brink of your relationship.
Think making IKEA furniture together, only worse. Your only guiding light is the look on your little girl’s face when she wakes up to this higgeldy piggeldy masterpiece in the morning. Deep breaths, pass the screwdriver.
12. What do you mean you forgot the batteries?
Tidings of comfort and joy to all and to all a good night. You have reached peak peace.
You are warm with the fuzzy, joyful nature this season is all about and then, as you both hand over the joint gift you got to a relative, your face drops. ‘Did. You. Remember. The Batteries. I. Told. You. To. Get.’ You ask faux-breezily through gritted teeth…
Oh well, you can’t have it all. Or maybe this is just all part of the chaos of Christmas – the bits you’ll look back at and laugh about when you are older and greyer and none of it really matters.
Perfectly imperfect. Happy Christmas.
Featured image: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
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