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the nightmare that is christmas present; Bah humbug... it's just turned December and Noddy and the boys are already blaring out 'So here it is, Merry Christmas'. Already had your fill of the festive season? Then join vicar's son Simon Gaskell...

LAST week, the 2010 calendar breached December, and with it, the whole world went mad. On the morning in question, I was awoken by Noddy Holder.

Not literally, but all the same, it was an irksome experience.

Hearing those unmistakablycacophonous tones from my radio alarm - the first words being the very "It's Christmas!!" line - was almost as disconcerting as the temperature of my nipples getting out of the bath that morning.

And as I dozily dressed for work, I contended this was all very premature.

It wasn't Christmas at all, it was the start of December.

A more accurate line would have been, "It's Advent!!" Was it not enough we had already endured nigh on a month of Caroline Quentin and her M&S tiger prawns? And now we faced the prospect of listening to a constant loop of Now That's What I Call Christmas for the next month.

That's when I acknowledged that this time of year, more than any other, gets my goat.

At no other point throughout the rest of the year are you compelled to provide more tokenism for people you either never see, or frankly, don't care about.

And present-buying for those you do care about is an absolute minefield.

For all the protestations of "You don't have to get me anything" or "It's the thought that counts," having the blatantly cheaper offering in a gift exchange with a loved one can lead to a barely-disguised tantrum lasting well into the New Year.

And don't pretend the first thing you do after opening a present is have a crafty look on Amazon to see how much your love is supposedly worth.

In extreme cases, items may even be returned behind a partner's back, which often leads to an awkward moment later in the year and inevitable unanswerable questions like: "Why aren't you wearing that watch I bought you for Christmas?" It is not inconceivable that Christmas quarrels have done for a great many romances.

Preceding that, the actual act of buying presents is most often about as much fun as a poke in the eye.

Most retailers are already advertising Christmas fare in October and shops are generally full of either "early-birds" or your archetypal "last-minuters" from then onwards.

And the fun continues into the New Year, as shoppers put aside all dignity and decorum to scramble for items that were selling for pounds 250 RRP on December 24, but which are pounds 2.50 on December 27, with a free bag of Werther's Originals thrown in for good measure.

Even at work, there is no escape.

There is the work Christmas party where over-amorous colleagues can often get into difficulty and telling your boss what you've always thought of him/her may seem like a good idea at the time, but can end with your P45 on Monday morning.

And then there's the secret Santa - my own personal nightmare - where the most innocent gestures can be misinterpreted.

It is the fickleness of Christmas, above all else, that is annoying.

It is a contrived time, where the "magic" of Christmas is actually mostly notional.

Easter is in actual fact, the preeminent Christian liturgical feast, but never quite has the same build up.

I mean, to my mind actually being resurrected from the dead is arguably a tougher feat than, say, just being born.

Admittedly, Jesus' feted arrival was in a fairly poky stable in adverse conditions with none of the benefits or comfort that modern medicine has to offer.

But coming back from the dead is a feat that has rarely - if ever - been matched, discounting of course the likes of Lazarus, Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson.

I am not being flippant, my father is actually a clergyman, and perhaps that can also account for some of my Christmas aversion.

By the time the Christingle, midnight mass and the Christmas Day services were finished, we barely had time to observe a half eaten carrot and open our presents.

And poor old Dad was absolutely cream-crackered come Boxing Day.

It all got too much for him a couple of years ago, when he fell asleep and spilt a glass of wine in front of Dragons Den: Where Are They Now? What about Christmas TV? Doctor Who and The Royle Family aside, well worn films like Harry Potter and Chicken Run are the norm.

And among Christmas-themed films are some of the worst that have ever been made.

Fred Claus, Christmas With The Kranks, The Santa Clause, anyone? Bah Humbug or Happy Christmas? I am afraid this year I'm Ebenezer Scrooge.


Are you weighed down with Christmas?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 7, 2010
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