The papers and the internet are awash at the moment with words of wisdom on why Christmas is so awful: the queues, the excess, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and new kid on the block Panic Saturday. Just as much has been written about why Christmas is brilliant: the giving and receiving of gifts, the socialising and the spiritual aspects.
I have sympathy with elements of both camps. I hate cooking, for instance, but I love a well-heeled mince pie, and I don’t enjoy shopping but love wrapping presents. Then, of course, there is ample opportunity for one of my favourite pastimes: writing lists.
But one of the best things about the festive season is that we have implicit permission to do things that we don’t do at any other time of the year – and I don’t only mean kissing secret crushes under the mistletoe. For me, it means ignoring the clock, sleeping until I wake and going to bed when I’m tired; and eating when I’m hungry, whether or not it is an official mealtime. It means watching cheesy films and TV specials without feeling guilty; playing boardgames and cards with my children, even though they’re both in their twenties, just because it’s fun and no one has to worry about being cool at Christmas; and putting our heads together over a jumbo crossword or 1,000-piece jigsaw. I’m talking about reading and listening to the radio, adding to a scrapbook or rediscovering the joys of a colouring book.
Most of all, though, I love being able to sit and do nothing, even if just for an hour or so. At this time of year, instead of rushing around in the bright lights of retail, we should be turning inwards and if not exactly hibernating at least slowing down and making time for reflection and contemplation.