Christmas day dawns and the good news is that Santa came.  Opening stocking presents on Christmas morning is one of the highlights of the year for me.  My sister and I snuggle up under the duvet and open tissue wrapped gifts amid ‘oohs, aahs’ and ‘thank you Santas’.  We rip open the gifts and this year I got my bed full of glitter from the tissue paper.  Santa came through with socks, underwear, fresh pyjamas for New Year’s Eve and this year unusually, tonnes of sweets. Clearly Santa feels I need to be sweeter.  If Christmas could just be this bit, I would easily declare it my perfect holiday and leave it at that.  After all, waking up in the morning and retiring back to bed with loved ones and opening presents is about as close to perfection as one can get.

Alas, this is only a tiny portion of the day and over far too soon.  Christmas actually starts at 06:45 when I get up to preheat the oven and then stagger over with the silver-wrapped bird.  Our guests were due at 1:30 so I thought I should aim to have lunch ready at 2:30.  This meant that the bird had to be out of the oven making way for everything else to go in by 12:30.  So it went into the oven at 07:30.  During the baking, I rotate the turkey every 45 minutes or so, so that it cooks evenly.  The oven timer worked overtime, but fortunately it is one of those ones which doesn’t stop ringing until you have pressed a button, so it is impossible to ignore/forget about.  In my old place, I had one of those magnetic ones that stuck onto the fridge.  It would ring loudly for 3 seconds.  I don’t know what happened, but we all became immune to the sound of it.  It was kind of like living next to the airport.  We just couldn’t hear it.  Suddenly I would smell burning and say:

“Shit!  The dessert!  Did the timer go off?”

Responses would vary from:

“Yes, ages ago. I thought you would have heard it.” To

“I don’t know, I didn’t notice.”

The only person I could rely on was my niece G, would run into wherever I was and shout:

“Mimi, the bell rang!  Lunch is ready!” (whatever the meal or time of day, it was always ‘lunch’ that was ready)

Anyway, every 45 minutes the infernal beeping would start and I would stop what I was doing and go and rotate the turkey.  Rotating the turkey is something that always brings a funny memory to mind.  One year, a very good friend of mine, G, decided that since he was alone for Christmas he would gather all the rest of us who were also alone and cook us a Christmas meal.  Never having cooked a turkey (or really very much at all) before, he called and asked me what to do.  I told him how I prepare it, and what to do, mentioning to turn the bird every so often to have it cook evenly.  When we got to his house, the bird looked like it had been in some sort of road accident.  It was falling apart, torn and miserable.

“What happened to your turkey?” I asked, baffled.

“It’s you!” he said, “You told me to turn the turkey!”

“Yes, but this does not explain the state it’s in.” I replied.

“Do you know how difficult it is to flip a turkey 5 times without damaging it?”

“What do you mean flip?  You were just supposed to turn it in the pan, you know rotate the pan so that both sides get the same exposure to the hottest parts of the oven.”

“What? I have been wrestling with this bloody bird all morning and afternoon!  I’ve had an absolute nightmare!”

The turkey was delicious, and we often reminisce about his first ‘cooking lesson’.  Next time anyone asked me I was careful to use the words ‘rotate the pan’, and not ‘turn the turkey’. You live and learn.

As I was saying, Christmas day starts about 90 minutes earlier than the present opening and continues on to form what seems like a neverending marathon of a day.

My question about whether or not it’s all worth it still stands.  Let’s examine the evidence once more: Christmas Day.

Getting up at 06:45 to preheat the oven so that you can get the bird in on time? – Arg.

Washing and wiping 1kg of fruit to decorate the pavlova with before 8am – wouldn’t want to do it every day, but the forest of strawberries looked pretty.  I approach the decoration of the pav in a military fashion.  I mean I don’t use a ruler or anything, that would be weird, but I kind of view the fruit as soldiers.  Lord knows they look like them all lined up and pretty.  In my head it goes a bit like this:

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SEAL Team Strawberry reporting for duty SIR!

“Ok, SEAL Team Strawberry, here’s what I need you to do, I need you to set up an intelligence base in the centre of the battlefield and then send out the rest of the team to secure the perimeter.  No one should be allowed through in or out, do you hear?   You know what the enemy is like, they have a chaotic approach to war, and they like to intermingle in a relaxed or non-existent formation to lull you into a false sense of security.  I need you to contain them all. Be careful this is rough terrain, it gets slippery and isn’t very solid.  Beware of landslides, especially at the perimeter. Understood?”

“Sir, yes sir!”  The end result looks like this. (Note the landslide on one edge.  Don’t say I didn’t warn them).

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I tried to make the strawberries look like Santa Hats but nobody got it. Still, they thought it was snowy mountains, so at least it felt slightly relevant.

Hoovering glitter off my Dad for about 10 minutes because his stocking presents were also wrapped in glittery paper – Unusual.

Opening a sequinned top that was just right for Christmas day lunch – Santa, I salute you.

Planning the meal to be served at 2:30, only to have the last guests arrive at 2:50 wanting a pre-lunch drink?  Typical.

My Dad insisting on singing this Greek hymn before lunch which it turns out only he knows, but I am expected to and keep chiming in the vowel sounds and word endings in a completely obvious manner?  Excruciatingly embarrassing.

Roast Turkey dinner with all the trimmings etc? – Eh, it was ok I guess.  Not my favourite.

Flambee-ing the Christmas pudding and getting it out of the kitchen and into the dining room for the ooh-ing and aah-ing?  Only just made it with a little burning cognac on the bottom of the plate.

Handing out and opening all the presents? Wonderful.

Spending a small fortune on Arsenal kit for my nephew (at his request, I might add) only for him to tell me he no longer supports them and prefers Liverpool?  I want my money back you little ingrate.  (Just kidding, he is young, but he will learn the error of his ways.  Besides, one day all his Liverpool kit will be in the wash and then – well hello, Arsenal kit.)

All the guests leaving and me getting back into my pyjamas while the third dishwasher run is underway? Aaaahhhh (sighs of contentment).

Having a friend come over and offer me a massage?  Ok, where’s Ashton Kutcher?  Am I being punked?  No?  Yes, please, I would love one.

Shredding 8 chicken breasts for sandwiches the next day whilst having my back rubbed?  Surreal, but much more pleasant than when my back isn’t being rubbed.

Realising that I didn’t completely over-cater and we won’t be eating turkey sandwiches/pies/curry/surprise for the next two weeks?  It’s a Christmas miracle.

Getting into bed that night with my ankles chubby and my hips sore?  Bliss.

In conclusion therefore, I think that the answer to my earlier question has to be yes, all the preparation and effort for one day is worth it.  Did you miss the part about how there were presents?!!

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