Mammy and Christmas — they go together like a stressed-out horse and a stress-inducing carriage.
‘The Christmas’ promises peace, joy and goodwill even though it might still spit us out the other side, exhausted, cranky and swearing we’re not going to TOUCH another Quality Street.
There is a huge variety of Mammyological approaches to Christmas but here are some snippets of invaluable advice, or at least Christmas smalltalk, honed from decades of experience.
The Twelve Says* of Christmas
(*Yes I know that “says” is not a noun but if you can have “a big ask”, you can certainly have your “says”.)
Do you know something, I think it’s earlier ’tis getting?
In medieval times, the first day of Christmas was Christmas Eve. Now you could be receiving your partridged pear tree much, much earlier. Every July, in a sequence aimed squarely at Irish Mammies, The News will present the annual report that Brown Thomas have opened their Christmas shop. The newsreader often pauses at the end, raising a quizzical eyebrow before going over to Evan for the sport. Thankfully the Americanisation of Halloween has meant that Christmas has at least been restrained to the two months. Although the problem now is that it’s earlier Halloween is getting.
CmeretomeIwanttotalktoyou. There’s to be no acting up this Christmas, do you hear me now?
This is a warning delivered early on in the build-up. It’s usually in response to an incident of acting up. It’s difficult to define “acting up”. It’s not as serious as acting the maggot but it is worse than carry-on, hijinks or horseplay. If judged to be acting up, take it as a given that your behaviour is unjustified. It can take the wind out of a lot sails if delivered with enough of an undertone of “I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed.”
‘There’ll be no one let stay up for the Toy Show if ye don’t stop messing. Now get into your pyjamas while the ads are on.
Watching it is a tradition. Small children are allowed to stay up to an ungodly hour, a new frontier of lateness, all huddled together on the sofa like a litter of excitable pups. The tradition may extend later into the children’s lives. The Fanta replaced by a Craft Beer brewed specially for the occasion called something like Tickle Me Elmo’s Fire.
The Toy Show does introduce one problem though as it may cause children to doubt the lists they have already submitted to himself. Mammies have the answer for that. “I’m sorry peitin but Santy makes the toys as soon as he gets the list so I don’t think he bring you that now. And anyway the children on the Toy Show have to give back the Toys.”
Up you get! I’ve jobs for you today
There is no time for messing or hints. Perhaps earlier in the cycle it would have been enough to say “I let you lie on. I’m up since seven myself” . Now there are jobs to do. You know it’s a busy day because doors are being left open in the house and drafts are wandering through like tourists. Be very careful in this situation. Mammy is in full mobilisation so if she catches you idling on THAT FECKIN SMARTPHONE ONE MORE TIME, it’s going in the fire.
How do we have FIVE sets of lights inthenameagod? And NONE of them working.
Mammy has her suspicions. She clearly remembers telling A Certain Person to gently wrap the lights around a stick. Now stick and lights all lie forgotten in an old A-Wear bag, an orgy of different sets twined around each other like those mating snakes you’d see on a wildlife documentary— except with no spark between them.
It’s a common problem. Decorations are put away on grim January days when no one is in the mood for thinking ahead. Then in mid-December, after a bit of crouched searching in the attic, under the stairs or at the back of the wardrobe, the decorations are retrieved, along with a dusty old extension cable and a complicated two-pin-three-pin plug ensemble. The lights are plugged in. And then someone has to go and get new ones.
He’s bringing her down to meet us at Christmas so it must be fairly serious.
The first visit of a potential in-law to an Irish house is a big deal. Doing so at Christmas creates even more tension. It’s making your senior debut in the All Ireland Final; the sense of occasion places a lot of pressure to perform. But if the new arrival avoids a few basic errors it should be fine. Don’t use all the hot water for a bath. And make sure to ask in advance: who normally sits where? Mammy and/or Himself will be far better able to give a welcome to a new arrival if they are sitting in their favourite chairs.
TWELVE PUBS! The Lord Save Us.’
The Irish are to drinking what Apple’s New Products Department are to computers: always coming up with a new way to do much the same thing you were doing before, only more of it and faster. The 12 pubs is our latest tradition. Mammy regards it with suspicion and has added it to the list of things that Young People Get Up To which she Heard Them Talking About On The Radio. Things like prinking and Tactical Voms. She can draw some small comfort from the fact that it’s the one night of the year when she can be sure her child won’t be COMPLETELY FROZEN on the night out. No matter how annoying some might find the Christmas jumper, at least there’s some bit of heat in it.
There’s a box of Roses we haven’t opened since last year. That’ll do them grand.
Roses are the gift that never stops giving and have always been a very acceptable way of avoiding visting with one arm as long as the other. Even if you got them as a present and are regifting, don’t feel bad; the recipient will do the same. Thus, the blue-and-rosey tin may make its way around the community — perhaps never to be opened. In fact, this Christmas, why not scratch a tiny identifying mark on the box and see if it finds its way back?
Get up them stairs Missy. You’re not going to Mass looking like MileyWhatsHerName.
Christmas Eve mass, as well as being a religious ceremony, is a community occasion. It’s not held at midnight so much now, meaning most people are fairly sober, but it is still a very social event as a few months’ news has to be crammed into short bursts of conversation in the cold outside afterwards. So it’ll be no place to be looking like you’re sitting on A Wrecking Ball.
I got them one each. Otherwise. There’d. Be. War.
In the Christmas context, this applies most effectively to Selection Boxes. Can there ever be a more wonderful object than a Selection Box? Yes it is true that on the ‘Fierce Bad Value’ scale it lies somewhere between ‘pure cod’ and ‘a racket’, exceeded only by an Easter Egg and sweets at the cinema.
But there is a thrill in seeing a Curly Wurly, not piled in a surly city centre supermarket, but in its own little moulded plastic nook next to its chocolatey friends. However selection boxes are not symmetrical. It can be hard to split them evenly unless you split each individual one and who has time for that.
Bad value or no bad value, it might be necessary to get one each. It’s grand to have the house full again. Isn’t it?
Don’t be spending a lot of money, D’YOU HEAR ME NOW? I’d be just as happy with a nice book.
Well that goes without saying. doesn’t it?
But what book to get?
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