Chitra Ramaswamy: A very handy Christmas

Share this article
Have your say

IT’S Christmas. Well, almost. We’re nearly there, soldiers. Just the final push to go, the bird to get, the forgotten gift to impulse buy.

Be brave of heart, strong of stomach, cosy of jumper and sharp of elbow in the aisles. Just think of all you’ve done to get here. All those extra hours spent slogging in the office (and you weren’t online shopping during all of them) so that you can while away the next three glorious, guilt-free days eating yourself silly and laughing too loudly at terrible jokes rolled up in crackers that cost a month’s salary.

Consider all those days spent trumping around the high street in below-freezing temperatures for gifts that are about to cost 
a fraction of the price in the January sales. (Inexplicably, the January sales now start in December, approximately five minutes after you bought your last gift.) Consider all the sofa time you’ve put in, studying how Mary Berry, Nigella, Nigel, Jamie, Rick, 
Delia, the Hairy Bikers and every other cook in the cosmos 
‘do’ Christmas in the full knowledge that, come the 25th, 
you will throw together the same meat-and-few-veg in the same slightly stressed/slightly sozzled way you have done since the dawn of time. ’Twas ever thus. ’Tis written in
the Bible.

This year the Ramaswamy clan is going for a utilitarian Christmas. Basically, that means no one, so far, is doing the cooking. I imagine this will end in some kind of ugly kitchen face-off at around 3pm on Christmas Day when we all run to the oven, open it to find it cold and empty (or, worse, showcasing a forgotten old baked potato), then start trying to stuff one another’s heads in there.

Fear not, there’s more to this than opting out. 
We are also buying deliberately unimaginative but useful presents for each other. You know, the kind of thing you refuse to buy for 
yourself because they’re just too boring. 
Let me explain.

Remember those halcyon days of sky-high borrowing and credit card juggling? You know, the ones that we’re all apparently so keen to return to? Well, they’re over. There is no place now for presents that pamper. Instead, I’m buying the kind of gift you desperately need. Like a pair of gardening gloves. Or a new ironing board. Or a kettle that doesn’t 
sound like a rocket taking off when it boils. 
Or some AA batteries, as a stocking filler. Thoughtful, or what?

Once you’ve decided on a utilitarian Christmas, the sky’s the limit. Everything costly, over the top and time-consuming is kicked 
to the kerb. Crackers? I don’t think so. You can 
invent jokes in your own head for free. Carol singing? Too tiring. Mulled wine? Of course, but don’t bother making your own sachets like Lorraine Pascale does. 
Buy it ready-mulled so all you have to do is heat 
and quaff.

Granted, what you’re left with if you follow this 
Christmas model is basically a mouldy old sprout and a packet of dishcloths wrapped in newspaper, but the point is, you get to devote your energy to the important stuff. Like spending time with loved ones. Playing games. 
Arguing about who gets to watch what. And getting
to the toffee pennies in the Quality Street first.

So, festive friends, it’s never too late to go 
utilitarian. Ditch the complicated recipes, 
visiting hours, frenzied tidying and mind-numbing thank-you notes. Instead, sit 
back, pour yourself a glass of something easy, eat a shop-bought mince pie and relax. Let Christmas take care of itself. 
Consider this a gift from me to you. And you know what? It didn’t cost a thing. n