I'm dreaming of a tight Christmas

2009-12-15 00:00

ON account of the unrelenting global recession this year, the usual fizz, bang and pop of the festive season have been downgraded to a less enthusiastic hiss, wheeze and fizzle. At least it has at our house, and with the escalating cost of living and ongoing retrenchments, I suspect we’ll not be fizzling alone.

This being the case, plans are afoot to tighten our belts, hopefully without cutting off our circulation completely — ’tis the season to be jolly after all.

Our friends, most of whom are in the same leaky boat, have been treated to recycled Christmas cards where appropriate little pictures of carolling church mice have been stuck over “Love from Aunty Agnes” and “Wishing you a peaceful 1993”. Although this may seem Scrooge-like, it’s better than sending a quick SMS or an e-mail, which don’t have quite the same festive appeal as cards stuck on the mantelpiece.

In the spirit of goodwill, we’ve also agreed to dispense with the annual exchange of sweets and treats, which, because I have no willpower, means I won’t be contending with loose fillings or tight jeans in the new year.

But while I’m all for pulling in my horns and reducing my chocolate intake, there are certain things that not even the prospect of a jam sandwich for Christmas lunch could induce me to do.

My parents, who were young children during World War 2, are no strangers to the concept of a tight Christmas, but hearing how folk in those days fattened their own chickens in the back yard to roast for Christmas dinner, makes becoming a vegetarian all the more appealing.

Personally, I prefer things featherless and frozen from the supermarket. And although the Cornish hen, which has replaced our customary ostrich-sized turkey, has all the juicy plumpness of an anorexic budgie despite its lemon butter glaze and strategically placed onion, it hasn’t been named Henny or Penny and didn’t spend the past six months clucking around our garden.

On the other hand, some things can never be substituted, but sadly, given the big price of a little tipple, our Yuletide pudding and merry mince pies are the epitome of sobriety, so no raucous chorus of We wish you a Merry Christmas is likely to follow this year’s bowl of brandyless pudding and custard.

Last year, in a fit of economic creativity, I attempted to make my own crackers out of loo rolls and crêpe paper. I even bought the snaps to go inside them. Unfortunately, by the time I’d poked all the little goodies into the roll and discovered that sticky tape doesn’t stick to crepe paper, I’d expended most of the snaps and forgotten what was in each cracker, resulting in my dad getting a bottle of pink nail varnish.

This being the extent of my artistic capabilities, unlike my grandparents who had to make do during the war, it’s a good thing I’m not required to crochet anybody a string vest or make tablecloths out of old flour sacks. Of course, this is not to say there isn’t a place for homemade gifts.

“My mum loved all the mud- pie ashtrays I made for her as a child,” said my husband complacently when I questioned him on the subject. That she never actually smoked was immaterial because, after all, it’s the thought that counts. I’m sure my own mother was equally enthralled with the necklaces I so lovingly crafted, using tubes of paint-splodged macaroni and a piece of string.

So this festive season, with things a tad tight around the belt, if your usual thigh-high stocking has shrunk to a dinky little ankle sock, your cracker has lost its snap and your bubbly its fizz, remember things could be a whole lot worse;

your name could be Henny or Penny …

• Heidi Steyn is a freelance writer who lives in Pietermaritzburg.

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