Cotswold Mother: The Christmas box

PUBLISHED: 15:30 03 December 2015 | UPDATED: 15:30 03 December 2015

What is it about Christmas that means everything suddenly has to be homemade?

What is it about Christmas that means everything suddenly has to be homemade?


I hereby solemnly declare that not one part of our Christmas will be home-made

What is it about Christmas that means everything suddenly has to be home-made? Sure, the hard-core crafters will make birthday cards all year round, dye hard-boiled eggs for Easter breakfasts, and crochet heart-shaped bunting in preparation for Valentine’s day, but it’s at Christmas time that the stakes are really raised.

This week, in amongst the usual mince pie recipes and egg nog serving suggestions, I’ve seen instructions for home-made advent calendars, hand-stamped wrapping paper, papier mache tree decorations, and a step by step guide to knitting your own nativity scene. Who comes up with it all? And why? Is it not enough that we have to find inspiration for eleventy billion presents, source sufficient tat to fill the children’s stockings, remember to order the turkey, and drive round the county hand-delivering cards because we’ve missed the last post?

Apparently not. Now I’m made to feel inadequate if the wreath on my front door hasn’t been lovingly crafted from locallysourced greenery and decorated with ribbons from my thrift box. Hell, I’m made to feel inadequate because I don’t even have a thrift box. I blame Pinterest. I’m a big fan of social media, as you’ll know if you’ve ever witnessed the Olympicstandard levels of procrastination I achieve on Twitter when I’m supposed to be writing, but there’s no doubt it’s the scourge of the modern woman, and particularly of the modern woman with neither the time, the inclination or the skill to create a shabby chic Christmas tree stand from an upcycled wine crate.

Type ‘Christmas’ into Pinterest and stand well back, before your screen explodes in a cacophony of red, green, silver and gold creations I can only conclude have been uploaded with the sole intention of causing widespread depression. “So cute!” exclaims the caption beneath a tree-topper angel, engineered from a retro Sindy doll and dressed in a ballgown made from scraps of baby clothes. “I can’t wait to do this with my little one’s outfits!” someone has commented. I want to message her and ask her if she’s really going to make what is actually a fairly hideous looking decoration, or whether she’s rolling her eyes like I am.

“You know you can just buy tree-topper dolls, don’t you?” I want to post. But of course I don’t. Because that’s the big secret of social media, isn’t it? No one really lives the life they allow to play out online. We post link to blog posts explaining how to combine unwanted jumpers and your surplus harvest of lavender into festive hand-warmers, just as we post photos of our smiling children taken in a fleeting interlude between screaming matches. There’s no more substance in the assertion that we’ve “collected so many glass jars - time for Christmas pickling!” than there is in the bold end-of-term status update that claims we’re “looking forward to two whole weeks of family time!” (smiley face).

I’m bringing an end to it. I hereby solemnly declare and affirm that not one part of the Mackintosh Christmas this year will be home-made. I will have stacks of supermarket mince pies, and enough shop-bought sloe gin that no one will care. I’ll buy whatever crackers go with the table-cloth, and any wrapping paper available on a buy-two-get-one-free. Someone else can spend time soaking my fruit cake in liquor, and smoothing out the wrinkles in the marzipan, and I couldn’t give two hoots if it isn’t served on a plate sporting my children’s handprints, cunningly transformed into a reindeer.

The kids’ stockings will be American Tan tights with the tops cut off, just like they were when I was little, and their advent calendar a collection of straightforward windows, not an heirloom with a gift behind each wooden door. In short, Christmas will come in a box, and I will refuse to be shamed by the plethora of crafting blogs, hobby magazines and Pinterest posts. After all, if God had meant us to make our own brandy butter, He wouldn’t have invented Waitrose.

Follow Clare Mackintosh on Twitter.

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