People start issuing this threat as early as October. You know how it goes: you bump into someone you know but seldom see, chat politely with them - and then, just as the encounter is drawing to a close, they utter those deflating words: "Let's catch up before Christmas." Now I don't know about you, but if I'm going to catch up with someone with whom my life no longer organically intersects, it's certainly not going to be in the most hectic month of the year. May or June, however, could work. This isn't an emergency situation so why is a deadline associated with this proposed get-together? To make matters worse, sometimes people actually say this in late November or even early December. In which case I just want reply: "We're catching up. It's before Christmas. I think you'll find our work here is done."
Christmas functions that ban significant others
I haven't attended my husband's work Christmas function for well over ten years now. We have an annual dialogue about it. "It's the firm's Christmas do next week," he says. "I'll book the babysitter. What should I wear?" I reply. Of course, he then explains that only actual staff members are invited; wives, husbands and partners are not on the list. For a while I thought it was only me who'd been banned and I struggled to recall what behaviour at a past event had rendered me persona non grata. I've since discovered my husband's version is correct and there is a blanket ban on significant others. I presume it's a cost-saving measure but I suspect it's also so work colleagues can kick up their heels unencumbered by the presence of outsiders. Regardless of the reason, it's not very social: just saying.
The question: "Have you done your Christmas shopping yet?"
I know that hairdressers, taxi drivers and shopkeepers are only being friendly when they ask this question but, despite its seasonal relevance, it gets old really fast.
When you've fielded the same enquiry for the tenth time in one day, even subjects that normally make your eyes glaze over can seem appealing in comparison. I think I'd rather chat about Paul Henry's new television show, Kim Dotcom's new political party or the accountability of mayors (from both here and abroad) than discuss the sad state of my Christmas shopping. Anyway, such a Christian-centric question surely has no place in a multicultural society. News flash: Not everyone does Christmas.
Noisy gifts for children
One Christmas my daughter was given a karaoke-style machine that converts a person's singing voice into sounds resembling the singing of Christmas elves. It's actually really funny to do - once. But, of course, children don't do things once; they're more inclined to perform an enjoyable activity on an endless loop. My daughter loves this machine but she may only use it in her bedroom with the door closed because the noise officially does my head in. That's the bad news. The good news is that the couple who gave her this now have a beautiful baby. What goes around comes around, I always think. I might even indulge in a spot of (hitherto not practised) Christmas re-gifting - if, of course, I can prise that plastic microphone from my daughter's hands.
Judging guests at the City Mission's charitable Christmas lunch
Last year a "rogue tour operator" was widely (and justifiably) condemned for taking Chinese tourists to the Auckland City Mission's annual Christmas dinner after billing the event as a "'buffet treat' the New Zealand Government organised for citizens and visitors". Yet there's also been criticism from members of the public about some of the other people who enjoyed the free festive meal. Talkback radio was alive with comments along the lines of: "I saw my neighbour there and she's not poor." But the chief executive of Auckland City Mission wrote: "It is easy to criticise the people who come to the dinner, to judge their worthiness and their need. Most of us would choose not to attend the lunch. We would not choose to wait in the rain for a table or to eat off plastic plates at a table with plastic cloths.
We would not choose to eat Christmas dinner with strangers, or be the recipients of charity. The people who do come to lunch do so because they are in physical or emotional need." This year, let's not judge anyone who feels the need to dine with the City Mission.
Now it's your turn. All Christmas gripes will be gratefully received. Please do share.