OPINION: This Christmas is simply about people and making lasting memories

Christmas 2021 is a chance for different generations of family to hopefully get together after last year

Christmas 2021 is a chance for different generations of family to hopefully get together after last year's restricted festivities - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Today is the day that, if you are hosting Christmas, for three, 10 or 16, overwhelmed is probably the word of the day.

Swamped, frayed, saturated, crushed. I’ve heard the lot uttered this week mostly – OK, all – by women, mostly with children and elderly parents to please in equal measure, as well a boss, a partner and a dog in between.

Lost in lists within lists and lists of lists, today is likely to feel more break than make. Every year, the same foreboding. How is this all going to happen in less than two days?

It will. December 25 comes round every year and, sure as eggs are eggs, no one will even notice or think about whatever you’re fretting over now.

If we take anything from this never-ending pandemic, nothing can ever be perfect and making it up as we go along is sometimes the only way.

There’s a syrupy list doing the social media rounds, which, despite its schmaltz, rings so true.

It’s one of the few things that make me wish social media had been invented when my children were young, at the height of the ‘women can have it all’ time with every Christmas increased pressure (on ourselves) to “do a Nigella/Jamie/Delia”, letting ourselves be played like fiddles in an Emperor’s New clothes scenario, wrestling with a turkey in a bucket of water outside the backdoor on Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake, and clearing supermarket shelves of star anise because it was a must-have in a Nigella recipe. What fools!

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Looking back at the work we made for ourselves, it’s a huge regret that this was more important than playing with my children. I’m not the only mother wishing I’d tweaked my Christmas priorities as much as my festive menus.

All that faffing trying to impress people who, in truth, couldn’t care less if it was Paxo minced organic pork shoulder from the most carefree pig. They were just grateful someone else was cooking again.

The list tells us to be present rather than buy presents. Being present isn’t just being in the house, but really being with people, listening, caring and sharing. We all think we’re present because we’re on the room but, nine times out of 10, our heads are somewhere else.

It goes on to say we should send love rather than gifts, donate food over shopping for food, and make memories rather than making cookies or handcrafted stuffing.

Focus on wrapping someone who needs it in a hug rather than wrapping their gifts and, most poignantly, be the light rather than seeing the lights.

People remember those who radiating warmth and bring light and sparkle with them.

Children won’t remember what’s on their plate, what time they ate it or what was in that fifth stocking gift. They will remember if you’re there, on the floor building Lego with them or playing shops.

Your partner will remember the laughs, the kiss under the mistletoe and the fiercely fought game of Scrabble.

Last year we missed loved ones because of government restrictions. This year, too many positive tests are restricting people’s Christmas.

Christmas is a time of reflection and revaluation, never more than during a pandemic of huge loss on so many levels.

Happiness isn’t about stuff, it’s about people. It’s people that make you laugh, make you feel better and feel wanted. You can’t buy that and wrap it up.

Focus on the words this Christmas. Happy Christmas. Merry Christmas. Make people happy and merry, and, in turn, you will be too.

Be present and shine bright. Time is the greatest gift of all.

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas

Diver Tom Daley is a national treasure, says Rachel

Diver Tom Daley is a national treasure, says Rachel - Credit: ITV

National treasure Tom

I’m still smarting that Tom Daley wasn’t named Sports Personality of the Year.

If ever was there a deserving cause for sheer determination and hard work with a backdrop of trauma, struggle and plodding on to finally achieving a dream, it’s him.

I really want to believe his sexuality, openness about his husband and child and his public knitting, had nothing whatsoever to do with the great British public vote but I’m not convinced.

On top of everything, Daley’s honesty and comfort with himself offers encouragement and confidence for people, especially young people, to be themselves and never live a lie.

Masking the truth because of what others might think only causes pain.

Daley is turning his attention now to footballers to be truthful and open and speak publicly about their sexuality.

The lack of openly gay footballers is a real issue. Daley’s missing out on the top public vote explains why. Sportspeople aren’t the broadest minded and accepting of different.

Watching someone I loved struggling with his sexuality and fearing rejection from his family, which resulted in crippling insecurity, addiction to alcohol and a premature death before his 40th birthday, a role model of a Premier League footballer to come out and show young people that their place in the world is just as valid as straight people is so important.

Daley estimates at least one gay man at every single Premier League club is living a lie.

Daley is an under-estimated national treasure who will continue to spread his own light for good by being himself and encouraging others to do the same.

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