Claire Gardner: Battle of sexes on the menu as Big Day looms

IT’S CHRISTMAS Day and lunch is about to be served. While the kids are playing with a host of new toys and gadgets that Santa has so kindly dropped down the chimney, mum is racing red faced round the kitchen, draining sprouts, mixing gravy and chopping the chipolata sausages.

Dad is pouring the wine. In a minute, and after the third time of being asked (not nagged – asked), he will probably carve the turkey. Meanwhile, mum is frantically laying the table as the kids have ignored her pleas for help. They are too busy munching their way through a tin of Roses chocolates granny helpfully opened just moments ago.

Christmas tunes are pumping out and dad is now trying to figure out how to work his new iPad2. Other granny (in-law) is immersed in her new Kindle.

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Mum, having popped the Christmas pudding in the oven, is now racing through her mental checklist. Father Christmas and his sack of goodies all safely arrived. Christmas cards – many sent and received, and now gaily draped over silver string around the sitting room. Presents, including the copious quantities of parcels to relatives around the country – all sent. Festive food and booze – bought in vast loads to feed and water the family and the cousins coming on Boxing Day.

Christmas crackers are dotted round the table and mum has remembered granny’s favourite sherry. Now she can relax and, once the blasted turkey has been carved, (usually after the fifth time of asking) all the family needs to do is sit down and feast upon some traditional festive tucker.

This scenario will be played out in many households across the country nine days from now – give or take a glass of wine or ten. However, it appears that men think they could do it better and have given the traditional festive feast, including overcooked sprouts and soggy Christmas pudding, a firm two fingers.

Of 2,000 men asked in a survey, a third said women turn Christmas into a stressful and expensive ordeal. Many said they would make radical changes, including an alternative meal such as steak and chips or a take-away.

Christmas cards would not be sent, and 40 per cent would like to see their in-laws banned from the Big Day. Children would help out more and presents would be limited – and come gift-wrapped.

So let’s try it dad’s way. It’s Christmas Day and lunch is about to be served – or to be more accurate, the food has arrived. The local Indian restaurant had advertised a special Christmas Day delivery. Dad liked the sound of that so he ordered a range of spicy dishes for everyone to try.

Problem is the kids don’t really like chicken tikka masala or rogan josh. Nor does granny for that matter. Never mind – they can have chips.

Rather than bother with crackers and cutlery, the meal is eaten in the sitting room so they can all enjoy the new 3D TV with a screen so immense it takes up most of the back wall.

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There are no gifts under the tree as the monster piece of technology, complete with Sky Sports, is a general present for everyone. Santa just brought sweets this year as they were on a deal at Sainsbury’s.

Cousins have been cancelled as well as his granny-in-law, so the family finish off the curry and chips and simply settle down to watch some quality repeats on their new TV.

Well I suppose if eating takeaway meals with your immediate family is someone’s idea of festive fun, then this cut-price Christmas could be a good compromise. But for most people, Christmas is not so much about the meal but about family and friends and exchanging gifts and chaos and chocolates for breakfast and catching up and falling out with folk – and making sure this happens can be expensive and stressful. In fact, for many women who have spent the past month in a frenzy, pulling the whole show together, this naïvely simplistic approach to Christmas could almost be interpreted as blasphemy.

But perhaps men have a point, (albeit a small one). Let’s not pretend for one second that men, in general, really have a clue about the sweat, blood and tears that goes into making a festive feast with all the trimmings an all-sparkling reality.

However, I am willing to take on board their central message – chill out! So this year as we women are sweating (and possibly swearing) over the sprouts and asking (not nagging) him to carve the wretched turkey for the fifth time, we should remember one thing – the number for the local takeaway.

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