Coming up to the holidays, in Britain, the question "So how are you spending Christmas" is an even more popular topic than the weather.
One thing I take from listening to everyone's answers, is the fact that women are totally stressed out by Christmas. You haven't even finished your question, and you can already see their shoulders tensening, their eyes becoming disoriented, as they launch into a detailed list of how they're preparing for the big day, when they've started doing all their shopping for presents and food, what their day-to-day plan of action is to get everything ready on time.
Some, I hear, parboil their roast potatoes and freeze them, do dry-runs of their Christmas dinner, and most seem to have a detailed plan of what needs to be done when. Because apart from preparing food and presents, Christmas get-togethers with friends need to be squeezed in, somebody needs to pick up grandma, make sure the children do their homework and stay out of trouble, go to their "activities" such as carol singing and nativity plays and so on and so forth, have their costumes, nappies, and clean clothes ready...
The frenzie starts weeks before Christmas, sometimes as early as November, when I hear people saying how they're so glad they've already done all their Christmas shopping this year. And Christmas madness doesn't end on Christmas day, because someone needs to clear the table, clean up everyone's mess, wash the dishes, prepare beds and do the cooking for what is often a big family gathering for several days. An awful lot of planning is neccessary to pull that off, as meals for so many people need to be planned in advance, the food shopping must be done in advance as well, you need to find enough space in the fridge or freezer, make sure food keep long enough...On top of that, you need to make sure you've got enough towels and bedding washed and dried for your guests... and the list goes on and on and on...
Women get a pretty bad deal at Christmas, because they're still largely the ones doing all this work, organising everything, carrying the weight of the responsibility for the smooth running of things..while men are merely delegated to do a thing or two, such as picking up a tree and doing the dishes, which is only a fraction of this mammoth task.
An honest conversation before Christmas can help find out what everyone really wants Christmas to be like - for example, do you really need all those presents? Are there ways of making food preparation more communal and part of the big day? Would you not much rather not have to worry about presents,* have only a simple meal, and play board games all night?
Anyway, merry Christmas-madness, everyone!
*if you have kids, maybe one or two presents, rather than twenty, would do?