Is it too early to put up the Christmas tree? I mused the question aloud a few weeks ago when I went home to visit my parents. My mother's rather colourful response is unprintable, but it's fair to say that in her opinion, October was not the time to deck the halls.
Now we find ourselves in November, and I find myself wondering whether the situation has changed. When exactly can you put up your Christmas tree without people thinking you're weird? Most people grow up knowing this, but I clearly missed out on that particular life lesson. In my defence, I grew up in a hotel where the Christmas decorations went up during Labour Weekend. I never stood a chance.
My childhood memories of Christmas include climbing up into the attic of that huge historic building, dragging down the Christmas trees, hanging up giant golden reindeer and playing the role of Santa's Little Helper on Christmas Day. It was only ever going to go one of two ways, wasn't it? I was either going to develop an allergic reaction to the yuletide (like my mother) or an addiction.
And thus: my name is Lizzie Marvelly, and I am a Christmas-oholic. Give me sparkly baubles, a Christmas cracker and a pair of antlers, and I'm a happy girl. Chuck in a mince pie and a few Mariah Carey carols and I might just marry you.
By which I mean to say that it's just as well that I quite enjoy being single.
But at the end of an election year on the home front, and as the anniversary of the coronation of America's thin (orange) skinned overlord draws near; when what the world needs now is love and cheer and trifle, I think I can be forgiven my enthusiasm. Christmas might be just what we need right now.
I've always thought of Christmas as a time that heralds both closure and new beginnings. It's the full stop at the end of the sentence, when you pause to think about what to write next. Indeed, there's something in the air in the lead up to this festive season that feels different. A frisson that hasn't been felt for many years. A new era is beginning.
This time round, when Santa ventures into the South Pacific, he'll find a country quite altered. He may have to stop and ask for directions, so profoundly has the landscape shifted. The pendulum has swung, as it is wont to do in this country, thanks to the triumph of those dreadful people who want to properly fund mental health services, lift children out of poverty, stop foreign speculators and ensure families have somewhere to live.
We're now as red, green and black as an All Blacks-themed Christmas party.
The last time I celebrated Christmas under a Labour government, I was 18 years old. I rummaged around the back corners of my brain to try to conjure recollections of what life was like back in the old days (or, as they are otherwise cringingly called, 'the noughties'), then, being the true millennial that I am, gave up and consulted the internet. The year was 2007, the unemployment rate was 3.7 per cent, 22 per cent of Kiwi children lived under the poverty line, and around 34,000 people experienced severe housing deprivation. So, according to Google, it was a bit of a mixed bag. Fast forward to 2017, however, and the unemployment rate is 4.6 per cent, 28 per cent of Kiwi children live in poverty and over 41,000 people have nowhere to call home.
We had problems then, and they are rather larger now. And yet, I can't help but feel that most Christmassy of feelings: hope. As a country, we're well aware of the challenges to come, having given them a fairly decent airing during the election campaign, but as this year draws to a close, new possibilities are opening up. Priorities have been set, deals have been struck and fresh eyes and minds are now charged with delivering that oft-hailed 'brighter future'. Let's hope they can turn their promises into reality.
The pressure is certainly on. While for 50.4 per cent of the voting population it may have felt like Christmas came early this year, for 44.4 per cent, Father Christmas might as well have dumped a pile of coal on their doorsteps on October the 19th. The challenge now will be for us to all come together to share in the Christmas spirit. Or, at least, to share in Christmas dinner without it turning into homicide by carving knife.
To that end, may I suggest the kind of compromise my true blue father and I have enacted for the sake of our continuing affection for each other, which, for the most part, transcends our somewhat antithetical political leanings? After enduring a week of jabs about communism, the short life expectancy of a triumvirate government, Winston, freeloading students, the country going down the gurgler and other assorted grumbles, I snapped. "I'm still your daughter," I wailed. So we struck up a deal. On his part, he'll give the new Government until July before he comments. On mine, I'll try to avoid the subject like the plague around him.
So that's this Christmas theoretically sorted. God help me in 2018.