Christmas comes but once a year… and the next… and the next! Such potential for happiness and joy. I’m sure we can all picture it – the family gathered around the Christmas tree singing carols; grandpa snoring quietly by the fireside, his belly full of plum pudding; young lovers kissing under the mistletoe and Tiny Tim staring out at snow falling on a picture postcard village. Okay, I may have got a little carried away here.
Whatever your idea of the perfect Christmas (and I’ll be the first to put up my hand and say that I love this time of year) there are so many things that can go wrong. So much potential for disappointment. In my Christmas story collection, Silent Night, there are a diverse cast of characters who take centre stage: young, old, male and female and it’s fair to say that not all their Christmases go to plan. I’ve used their stories to create my own list of potential pitfalls to help you to make the very best of this festive season.
1. Don’t always presume the grass will be greener on the other side.
In my story ‘Finding Santa’, Marie thinks that her children would rather be jetting off to sunny Tenerife than spending it at home without their dad after the marriage break up. It takes bad weather and a cancelled flight for her to see how wrong she’s been. I sometimes think that it might be nice to go somewhere completely different at Christmas and get away from the dodgy weather, the re-runs of bad sitcoms and fighting my way to the till at the supermarket but, in reality, I know I’d miss the family traditions and the chaos that makes the day so special.
2. Don’t leave the Christmas shopping to the last minute.
This is what Keith does in my story, ‘All I Want for Christmas’. His step-daughter, Rachel, wants a Moshi Monster more than anything else in the world – but so do all the other children in the area. By the time poor Keith hits the shops, the shelves are bare. Luckily for him, a chance encounter with a neighbour gives him an idea for an even better present. I hate leaving Christmas shopping to the last minute – What about you?
3. Don’t think the best presents are always the biggest.
David, in the story ‘The Greatest Gift’, stands outside the department store, trying to think of the perfect gift for his girlfriend. As a child, he’d always thought that the biggest box contained the best present – surely Lyndsay would think the same. As he stands there, hoping inspiration will strike, he watches people as they walk past and learns an important lesson. I think too much importance is placed on material gifts, but I expect my grandchildren would tell you different!
4. Don’t plan Christmas in too much detail – you might regret it.
Ryan in ‘On My Own’ thinks that to make Christmas successful, the day has to be organised with military precision. Unfortunately for him, his girlfriend, Bella, thinks otherwise. She leaves him to his spreadsheets and spends Christmas alone. I’m sure plenty of us have fantasised about renting a little cottage by the sea for some ‘me time’ at this busy time of year… But would we really like it? I’m not so sure.
5. Don’t expect this Christmas to be the same as the last.
In the opening story, ‘Project Christmas’, Andrew wants to make Christmas the same as it’s always been for the sake of the children after his wife dies. But does he need to? With a little help from his sister and the kids, he discovers that, in some circumstances, different can be a good thing. It’s easy to stick to the same traditions and I know that, out of habit, I find myself buying the same food, decorating the tree in the same way and organising my day as I always have. Maybe this year I’ll try something a little different… be more adventurous.
However you spend your special day, I hope that you have a wonderful time. Who knows, it might even snow and you’ll be able to make a snow angel like the grandfather in my story ˜Do you Believe in Angels’.
Wendy Clarke – Biography
Wendy Clarke is a writer of women’s fiction. Her work regularly appears in national women’s magazines such as The People’s Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman’s Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles.
Wendy has published three collections of short stories, Room in Your Heart, The Last Rose and Silent Night and has just finished writing her second novel.
Wendy lives with her husband, cat and step-dog in Sussex and when not writing is usually dancing, singing or watching any programme that involves food!