• Idle Chit Chat

The C Word: Poppy McAlister's lessons for Christmas

An article for anyone who shivers more at the thought of Christmas than ‘the c word’.

All over the country this morning, you could almost hear Britain heaving a sigh of relief. After weeks of festive frenzy, Christmas is officially a whole year away. The guests have gone, the turkey is terminado, and we don’t have to suffer the annual brussel sprout ordeal for at least another 365 days. I am more than happy to admit I’m a bit of a Scrooge, and I am okay with that. Christmas is stressful, it is expensive, and it is a whole lot of fuss, food and faff for one day. But we all know that.

Rather than write a ten-page article on all the stressful things about Christmas, I want to go back to basics. I want to remind myself of the best parts of Christmas, the little wins and the things that make us smile. So without further ado, I bring you six stress-free tips to make you enjoy December 2019, as I reflect on the little things that make Christmas.


December signals the return of the Quality Street, the increased presence of our good friend Terry and his reliable orange ball of happiness, and the less welcome appearance of the by far inferior Roses. Why is it, that at no other time of the year do shops happily give out chocolate for free?! Perhaps to tackle the obesity problem? I hear you cynics reply…. Nevertheless, a little bowl of chocolate buttons next to the till puts a smile on your face, and makes those Christmas queues a little more bearable. And let’s be honest, we all take more than one. No matter whether you’re six or sixty, we get a real childish joy in stuffing two or three cheeky choccies into our pockets. If that isn’t enough of a kick, it is even more exciting when you find them (if a little squashed) a few days later! Perhaps when you’re flagging, on the verge of fainting, or feeling like you might cry at the prospect of having forgotten something else off your shopping list, it might just be little green triangle in your coat pocket that makes your day.

Christmas TV

I won’t get started on Christmas films, because if you’re a Grinch like me then you just can’t face watching Kevin miss his flight for the 400th time in Home Alone 2. I am probably in the minority, but certainly not alone in thinking that Christmas films can be boring, repetitive and a little overrated (cuff me). HOWEVER, Christmas TV I have to admit is second to none. Whether you’re counting down the days to the Strictly Christmas special, or you’re dying to find out which Agatha Christie will be remade on BBC 2, there is pretty much something for everyone at every time of the day. For one month of the year, channels Four and Five come into their own in dusting off old classics like the Thunderbirds and Top Gun, and let’s not even get started on Christmas cooking programmes! Oh the joy of watching Nigella slip another two jugs (oi oi) of double cream into her Christmas pudding, or watching Mary Berry struggle under the weight of a turkey four times her size. There’s also a truly trouser wetting selection of comedy compilations that I recommend you whack on series link. Peter Kay’s Comedy Shuffle, the very best of Victoria Wood or even The Gavin and Stacey Christmas special, comedy TV is better at Christmas than at any other time of year.

Christmas lights

Next time you’re stuck in traffic lights or pushing past a hundred other Christmas shoppers on the high street, take a deep breath and look up. Without sounding too soppy, Christmas lights are actually beautiful. With a few fairy lights, even the dodgiest of British towns transform into their very own alpine villages (Wantage, I’m looking at you). We spend too much time with our heads down looking at our shopping lists and not enough time looking up.

Braggy Christmas Cards

Many eco-friendly green Grinches see the Christmas card as a dying trade or perhaps just a waste of time. Nevertheless, whatever your opinion on Christmas cards, the only thing better than finding twenty quid in a card is discovering a double side of A4, printed with a whole year’s worth of an overachieving family’s successes.

“This year, Matthew took his Maths A Level a year early and passed his Grade 5 Clarinet with distinction! He’s really looking forward to a new adventure in 2019 which will entail his first Duke of Edinburgh expedition!”

They make you laugh, they make you cringe, and they make Christmas.

Jude Law

This is a slight exception to my previous rant about Christmas films, but I really do believe Jude Law in ‘The Holiday’ is one of the best things to come out of Britain. He is without a doubt the most charming, polite drunk gentleman to turn up at your doorstep in the middle of the night, and what is Christmas if you can’t live in hope. If Jude Law doesn’t float your boat, I am open to extending my Christmas eye candy to any of the Love Actually protagonists, the ever gorgeous TV presenters Tess Daley, Claudia Winkleman, Holly Willoughby, the dreamy Dermot O’Leary…


The Christmas spirit is kept alive through children. The sparkling eyes, the sleepless nights, the excitement of reading Christmas stories, dressing up and opening the advent calendar. As we grow older, we inevitably lose some of that childish excitement towards these Christmas traditions; our tree decorations are a little half-hearted, our advent calendars get forgotten until we are forced to open seven days at once. Maybe this is just me. However, even the grottiest of Christmas grumps can’t say that a little boy dressed as a shepherd or a little girl dressed as a sheep doesn’t warm their hearts. Next year, when it feels like Christmas is all getting a bit much, I am going to put aside my adult grumbles. I will channel my inner child, and relive the magic of Christmas with the authentic and indestructible festive spirit of children.

Often, I do think we have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but that is for another article (or perhaps a tearful, private diary entry). However, next year, when the inevitable ‘c’ word returns to our vocabulary, I am not going to think of the long queues, the prospect of an underdone turkey or family feuds. Instead, I will look forward to Quality Streets, Christmas lights and the Nigella Christmas special. My heart will lift instead of sink when I see another braggy Christmas card. I will go to a Nativity and I will unashamedly put Jude Law as my screensaver. Whilst I calmly await the hate mail following my attack on Christmas films, I am going to look forward to this time next year and remind myself of the little things like these that make Christmas.

- Poppy McAlister