In the shopping malls of this proud little consumer nation, the Christmas decorations have been up since October. In our supermarkets they have been playing Christmas carols over the in-house sound system since early November. Meanwhile, out here in the real world, despite all the none-too-subtle visual and audio cues to get our wallets out, most of us are just starting to wake up to the fact that it is almost December, which means Christmas must be coming along sometime soon. This, in turn, means it is time to remember the simple steps for preparing body and soul for the onslaught of the holiday season.
Tune out the tinsel, focus on the core meaning of Christmas. You are in a shopping mall on Christmas Eve. You are sick of the sight of tinsel, you are hearing Snoopy's Christmas for the hundredth time this week, you are in the world's longest queue for the gift-wrapping station, you are on the verge of snapping - if Feliz Navidid is the next song they play, you will go postal. To survive Christmas you must always keep in mind why we have Christmas. For many this will mean thinking about the birth of Christ and gaining serenity from that. For many others this will mean thinking about how it will all be over soon and then gone for another year, and gaining strength from that silver lining. In short, whatever gets you through is fine, as long as it doesn't get you arrested in the process.
Brace yourself for gluttony. At every other time of the year gluttony is unattractive; at Christmas time it is expected. There are two ways you can prepare for the food onslaught that starts with the Christmas Day feast and the last through the leftovers period. The first way is to go on a crash diet, avoiding as many calories as possible now, knowing they will hit you en masse on December 25. The second way is to steadily build your food intake so that Christmas Day doesn't seem all that abnormal. Both approaches are valid and both will result in you asleep in a chair before the Queen's Christmas message.
Empty the pantry and fridge. On one level this is about making space for all the food that flows into the house to feed the hordes. On another level this is about hiding away all the strange jars of preserved fig leaf chutney; the brick-like Italian dessert things; the boxes of obscure and unappealing tea blends; and all the other food crap you were given last year so that your relatives don't notice you haven't touched it. On a third level it is about making space for this year's instalment of weird gift food from your relatives.
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Appoint a family member to carry the burden of Christmas guilt. Once upon a time the only guilt associated with Christmas was all about how much you ate at Christmas lunch. Then along came the packets of Christmas cards by people who could paint only with their feet. Nowadays Christmas guilt has been consumerised to the level where you can give goats to a village somewhere in the third world while also destroying all their AK47s - or something along those lines. While this is laudable and everything, to have the entire family giving and receiving only charitable presents sucks all the fun out of Christmas. The best solution is to appoint in advance a family member to be the one to receive all these worthy but joyless presents. Grandparents are ideal at filling this role.
Prepare the car (and driver) for Christmas holiday travel. This is along the same lines as preparing for a long road trip except it is all about undertaking that road trip at very low speeds because every other bugger under the sun is undertaking the same road trip at the same time. In terms of the car this means ensuring that the car will not overheat while crawling along State Highway 1 between Warkworth and Wellsford. In terms of the driver, it means having lots of liquid refreshments, snack food and soothing music so the driver will not overheat.
Mentally gird the loins for shopping mall carpark hell. There are drugs you can take to calm the nerves before you descend into the hell that is a shopping mall carpark in mid-to-late December. Unfortunately these drugs render you incapable of driving a car and therefore avoiding it altogether. While this certainly solves the problem, it does not get the Christmas present shopping done. This is why God gave us online shopping.
There you have it, a few helpful tips to get you across the line, the one marked "Boxing Day". Now get out there and consume, dammit, because there is a nation of shopkeepers out there who need you.