“I’m sorry, I can’t do Christmas anymore”

Ripples of horror shook through the family when Aunt Jane suddenly announced by email last week, “I’m sorry everyone, I just can’t do Christmas anymore.”

Her sister, Bertha, the alpha female in the family and the organizer of ‘The Family Christmas’ every year, struck back with the speed of a viper who’d just been trodden on. “Whaddya mean you can’t do Christmas?” she yelled over the phone, “we’ve always done Christmas, Jane, and I’ve got you making the Christmas cake this year so you’d better come through, sis, or you’re horsemeat.”

Jane sighed. So much for the spirit of Christmas. Every year it was the same, though. Somewhere around the middle of August, her sister became General Patton, issuing commands to the entire family as to what they’d all be doing for ‘The Family Christmas’, and woe betide anyone who didn’t follow orders.

The result was always the same too. Those who loved the rush of baking up enough goodies to feed a Third World country for a week, who loved the hustle and bustle of buying gifts, booze and candy, and loved decorating the house and the Christmas tree with lights and other paraphernalia, launched into action like a highly-trained army. But then there were the slackers in the family, those who couldn’t stand the whole sickly mess of trying to be extra nice and having to go to all this work and expense for just one day, who always messed things up by leaving gift-buying to the last possible minute and forgetting to bring the potatoes for the potato salad.

So there were always spats, and sometimes the hints of outright war between those who loved The Family Christmas and those who hated it. But for Aunt Jane there was something else. The Family Christmas wasn’t anything like the birth of Christ. His birth was peaceful for a start. No alpha-female screaming orders, no raucous booze laughter, no kids ripping paper off gifts they didn’t need – in fact, none of the din and frantic self-indulgence so typically associated with Christmas.

That lovely picture of peace and serenity at Jesus’ birth began to grow in her mind. She compared it to the high-intensity guilt-trip her sister wanted Christmas to be every year, and there was simply no comparison. So she wrote to the family saying, “Sorry for bowing out of Christmas this year but if anyone wants to join me on Christmas Day for a quiet chat and a snooze, you’re more than welcome.”

So long as not too many of them turn up, she thought.

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