Scrooge was right. I’m with The Grinch.
Year after year I never put up Christmas decorations in my house – not a scrap of tinsel or baubles will tarnish it.
As for a Christmas tree, forget it - there hasn’t been one in any house I’ve lived in since childhood.
I even hate the festive record by my musical hero.
But I’m more Christmas-sceptic than Christmas-phobic.
I prefer it on my own terms, so the only thing I put up on my living room mantlepiece is seasonal cards posted to me – and in this digital age, fewer and fewer are sent.
I think too much time and effort is put in for one day and the expectation is too high after a build-up lasting weeks.
And on the big day, bad things can still happen, in particular families and partners can fall out and squabble.
Christmas is seen as a time when families are expected to have a wonderful, close time together. But the relationship support charity Relate says this brings on enormous pressure and expectation.
Its website explains: “The desire for the whole family to get along with each other, for there to be no tensions, and for problems to magically disappear adds another layer of pressure and stress.”
Already the festive season is brought up, such as in advertising, as early as October. It’s an overdose of Christmas, to quote Robbie Williams in his song Millennium.
But Noddy Holder, whose band Slade produced one of the classic festive records, is shown on an often-circulated Facebook post saying: “It’s not Christmas until I say so.”
I don’t boycott the season completely. I go shopping for presents and post festive cards.
But for the time taken traipsing around for gifts, I wonder how many of those are not wanted. How many creep into a charity shop by February to give them away? We’ve all done it.
And yet too often we pay for lavish presents we may not even be able to afford.
Relate says that at this time of year the second biggest expected source of conflict in a household (18%) is how much to spend on gifts. That’s after turning on the heating (20%) and third comes the expense of electricity used for Christmas lights (15%).
Also so many cards depict snow, yet when was the last time in Kent you ever remember seeing the ground white at Christmas? For December 2024 I’ll design a card showing a true British Winter Wonderland – with rain, and trees knocked down by wind.
One of the great irritations is the forced jollity of the season.
Years ago when I was in a pub in north London on Christmas Eve the mood among customers was sedate – people were content with a quiet drink.
But the DJ tried to nag and pester us into being merry: “Come on get some beers down your neck – it’s Christmas.”
When the mood didn’t fizz up he went on: “I bought this diary and it says today’s Christmas Eve….”
“You sure you didn't steal it?” was one of my mates’ barbed comments.
Exactly 40 years ago the Virgin Megastore record shop in London’s Oxford Street offered people a sanctuary.
It had decor illustrating it as a “Christmas Free Zone” with no glitzy decorations and a picture of Santa and a reindeer with a red line through them.
As customers were leaving the shop a sign warned them of the mindless festive bombardment out there. “Danger! You are now leaving the safety of a Virgin Christmas Free Zone and entering a Christmas Zone.”
Off the customers would go to other stores to endure garish decorations in November and the constant playing of Stop the Cavalry, Santa Claus is Coming to Town and All I Want for Christmas Is You.
Imagine the poor staff who have to listen to those songs a million times over weeks. Definition of torture?
There are some excellent Christmas records: Merry Xmas Everybody by Slade, I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday by Wizzard and Happy Xmas (War is Over) by John Lennon.
But too many are cliched, sentimental and syrupy and the best artists fall into that trap. I think Paul McCartney is a genius but I loathe his song Wonderful Christmastime.
Lennon once remarked: “Every year you can play White Christmas and there's always somebody being tortured or shot somewhere.”
At least the Band Aid record Do They Know It’s Christmas? was put to good use to raise money for the starving.
Terrible things don’t magic away during the Season of Goodwill.
With everyday problems in Britain, villains don’t take a holiday to relax with sherry and mince pies. Shortly before the big day in 1997, someone broke into my car one night on Dover seafront. They smashed a rear side window to open the boot hatch to see if I had left any presents inside (I hadn’t).
In 1992 I wrote a story about a family who lost all their presents when they were left in the boot of a car outside a hotel in New Romney.
I even ran somebody over on Christmas Eve 1997 on the way back from a reporting assignment in Rainham. It was in the morning and I hadn’t even been drinking the night before. I didn’t notice a woman in time crossing a junction, she wasn’t looking either.
I remember babbling hysterically in shock as I spoke to the police about it and the officer had to tell me to calm down. I was cautioned but not arrested.
Police put it down to six of one and half a dozen of the other, the woman didn’t pursue the matter and there was no prosecution.
She wasn’t badly hurt and was conscious and talking when she was checked out in hospital.
“I can imagine what she's saying about you,” said my deputy editor in gallows humour.
No doubt that Christmas is a magical time for young children but even at the age of 12 and 13 my friends and I were beginning to think of December 25 as just another day.
After weeks of festive force-feeding, you crave normality. So I love the quiet last days of December between Boxing Day and the last jollity of the season, New Year's Eve.
After Boxing Day there's no more atmosphere for Christmas. On one December 28 I played Happy Xmas (War Is Over) on the jukebox in a pub and the mate I was with thought I was being an embarrassment.
Yet the 12 Days of Christmas continue until January 5. How strange that it’s long forgotten by then (hurrah!).
So have a good Christmas folks but like alcohol, enjoy it in moderation.
Relate’s website has six tips for a stress-free Christmas:
1. State expectations. Make clear to family and friends what you are hoping for, so difficult demands can be dealt with and compromises can be made. Budget your gift spending.
2. Don’t be afraid to say no. If you need to turn tasks down, explain why and offer an alternative. For example instead of taking on all the cooking, suggest a bring and share meal so that everyone takes a share of the work.
3. Practical preparation. If you’re the host this year make or buy food early on and wrap presents well in advance.
4. Delegate. Your guests may be more willing to help in small tasks than you think. Children also like to feel helpful so ask them to do things like hand around snacks or set the table.
5. Avoid conflict. If there is a risk of some guests not getting on, subtle things can be done like getting people to come out for a short walk to break things up.
6. It’s your Christmas too. If you’re the host, however hard you work for your guests give yourself time to also relax and enjoy yourself.