Juan Antonio Samaranch indulged in an annoying four-yearly habit.

While giving his address at the conclusion of each summer Olympics, the long-serving former President of the International Olympic Committee praised each host country for staging "the best ever" games.

Legend has it, during the Spaniard's 21-year tenure he withheld the phrase only once at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, after the committee had coped some considerable flak.

I say annoying, because it's exactly what I do on an annual basis come Boxing Day.


That is, assess whether the preceding day was the "best ever" Christmas.

Was the lamb cooked as well as mum's in 1985? Was the ham as smoking as the famous leg in 1997? Is this deck-chair more comfortable than the one I got in 2003? Was the Harvey Wallbanger as drinkable as the one mixed in 2010? Did the pav have that perfect chewy finish that only my lovely neighbour Pam Ashby could do?

Tough criteria to better.

Lifting the bar on Christmas Day only gets harder.

As we age the summers start stacking up. It'll take a deliriously good one to knock the incumbent top-25th off its post.

Hence I must stop doing it.

It's flawed. And considering we will never match the glee of when Santa was real, it's ill-fated. Since my eldest brother imparted the solemn news that the man in red was an adult construct, it's never been the same.

But us parents have ways of recapturing some of that mystique.


Santa is reincarnated - after a 20-odd year hiatus - through our kids. In fact I go to great lengths to convince mine of his authenticity. (Yes, I am going to hide this editorial from them today).

Not content with just leaving Santa a beer and biscuit, we also leave his reindeer a carrot and some water. But this year the guile was heightened. I also ordered a bucket of sheep manure from the in-laws' farm.

When the fresh pile materialised on Christmas morning next to the empty beer bottle and biscuit-less front lawn, their mouths dropped in horror and awe.

For another year that'll keep the 5 and 8-year-olds devotional, the 10-year-old agnostic and the older two highly-entertained atheists.

It's the magic paradox of children. They age us terribly - but keep us perpetually young.